C has never been good with presents, special occasions, and what-not. It is pretty much a running joke between the two of us as to just how bad he actually is with these things. And it isn't that he doesn't care - he does - he is just not very good at surprises.
This past Christmas I was so very happy with seeing the joy on Logan's face when he opened the Night Before Christmas book that held C's voice that I didn't go through the rest of the box until much, much later.
I couldn't believe he had remembered. I couldn't believe he had stored one comment I had made on the phone months before and let it spark something.
"I can't smell you anymore," I had told him on a harder day. There was one shirt in particular that I kept just because it smelled like him. He wore it after taking a shower a day or two before he left. It smelled just like his soap, his skin, the scent that followed the steam when he would open the door. My younger sister (who believes my closet to be her own - as sisters always do) had taken this shirt to sleep in while she was home from college.
She washed it.
His smell was gone. I know I looked like a crazed person when I discovered her mistake. But I couldn't smell him anymore and the sheer thought of that made me panic. I don't think we know how much we will miss that - the everyday, always around scent - until we can't have it.
Inside the hand and foot-print covered box was a heavy-duty, blue Ziploc bag, sealed and then taped closed. No air was getting in this thing, no air was getting out - he thought it through well. I didn't open it when I noticed the crest on the chest that I had become so familiar with. It was the sweatshirt that he wore everyday - for years. I had grown to hate the little holes in the cuffs and the wearing away of the black cotton. I cannot tell you how many times I had tried to hide it from him. I had no idea why he loved that rag so much but I knew now why I suddenly did.
I hugged the thick, blue plastic to my chest and cried.
"It's yours now" was written on the scrap paper attached to it. The kindest gift.
I haven't opened this package. I know how horrible that is - probably why I haven't written about it until now. But I cannot open it. I know - or at least I hope - that whenever I choose to open that tightly sealed and re-sealed bag that it will all come back. The smell after a hot, steamy shower - that deep spice scent. And I can't risk losing it. The very idea of never smelling that again ...
It stops my heart.
It crushes my chest.
I forget how to breathe.
I cannot lose it. But I can't smell him anymore.
And I so want to know that smell.
"A soldier doesn't fight because he hates what is in front of him. A soldier fights because he loves what he left behind." - unknown
"God is our refuge and strength. He will protect us and make us strong" (ps 46:1). For those who will fly today, for those who are there now, and for those who will soon join the fight, Lord, shield them from all evil, strengthen their hearts, and bring them home safely.