"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.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Who He's Running To

"Da-da!" Eli yells with his arms stretched in front of him and his tiny feet racing to the front door. "Da-da" he says again with his arms now reaching straight up, pleading to be picked up and hugged and loved. He picks him up with just as much excitement as this one-year-old has shown. It's an adorable moment - so very sweet - so much love, so much admiration, so much joy when he walks in from work. Tears fill my eyes as I witness it all because there is one small problem: The man walking in the door isn't Eli's Daddy, he's mine. 

When C first left again after R&R, Eli said "Da-da" every time a door opened. No matter what he was doing, he whipped his head around and headed to that door his sweet, little voice calling for "da-da" the entire way.

I cannot explain how fortunate I am to have a father who is so beautifully in love with his grandchildren. He is so involved, so supportive, so amazingly hands-on it has made these last several months far easier than they could have been. I am blessed - amazingly blessed to have the great support of my parents during this trial along the way.

We all quietly ignore it when Eli calls my dad "da-da" (maybe responding "Poppa, baby, Poppa") and wildly praise him when he calls C the same. 'Yes, you love your daddy," my dad usually responds, or "Yes, your Daddy misses you." Eli knows his daddy. I know he knows his daddy. I know because he calls out to him when Skype is up and because he recognizes him in pictures and because his face beams when he hears his voice on the phone. 

I know he knows his daddy because I have done everything I can possibly think of to keep C here. To raise this child to know this man, to know his love, to know how very much he wants to hold him. I know he knows his daddy because that is my final prayer every night - a desperate, determined prayer. It's what I strive for, it's what pushes me.

It is my biggest fear, my greatest hope, my most fervent prayer - that these children get to always know their daddy.

So I am holding on to what is to come to get me through today. Because in a short amount of time that boy will drop his toys and jump to his feet when that key turns in the door. His tiny feet will try to keep stride with his brother's as he barrels forward with waiting arms and a glowing smile - his tiny hands pinching empty air as his knees bend up and down, just waiting to be love. And his little voice will say it, "Da-Da!" as those strong arms lift him from his sandy boots up to his chest and they will return that unconditional, innocent love that this precious child needs. And this time the tears will sit in my eyes again, because this time it will finally be the one he's been running to.

Wednesday, April 27, 2011

Truth - Guest Post

Laura Ross has followed her soldier through active duty, Army Reserves and currently Army National Guard.  In 5yrs of marriage, they've had 4 children, moved 4 times, fallen in love with their vocation to the military life and Laura's blogged it all.  Now as her husband prepares for his first deployment, she's started up a new blog specifically aimed at recording the thoughts and adventures that come with this journey.  She hopes to provide encouragement and support to the numerous military families also serving "the land of the free and home of the brave."  Please join in her adventures at her blog: Charlie Mike 

If it seems like I'm vacillating, I am. Though not as much as it may seem like through my blog posts, because those hard times are usually only fleeting seconds scattered on a canvas of joy-filled days. When I put those difficult times into words, it fills an entire post rather than just a few seconds.

The truth is, my life is good :) I am happy. I love my vocation as a wife and mother to our 4 children. And I am falling in love with my vocation as a military wife, thanks to being co-leader of our family group where I can actively make a difference in the lives of spouses, children, siblings, parents and friends of our soldiers. I will forward informative emails or invite friends to FB groups that support our military. It is something I feel strongly about and called to do - raising awareness and support for our military and their families. This is not a personal plea; there are thousands of military families out there who are everyday challenged to live this vocation.

I recently posted this article on my FB wall.(http://gagglemaggot.tumblr.com/post/4185240822/what-not-to-say-to-a-military-wife) The article is half kidding, though I know from experience, people do ask some crazy things and if you can respond with humor, it diffuses the urge to hit them over the head ;) A couple people responded with a "well, what can you say?" which, honestly was the first thing I thought after reading the article too. After looking back on my own experiences, I came up with several (hopefully!) helpful things.

*If you can't relate, then say so. "I can't imagine what you're going through..." It's ok, and it's refreshing to hear rather than things like "Oh! That's just like my husband's business trip last week! He was gone for 4 whole days and it was so hard to deal with the kids alone! How are you going to do it for a whole year!?"

First mistake is relating a deployment where you live with the stress and risk of losing your spouse on top of essentially living two people's lives in one person's time to a business trip where they come home and bring the kids bags of peanuts from the plane ride.

Second mistake is insinuating the whole negative "you can't do it" factor and the extreme length of it. We aren't ignorant to the fact it's hard. Or long. If a person has never experienced something and then make judgments about it, they come off sounding ignorant and even condescending. When you are in hardcore active labor, do you really want a nurse who's never been pregnant coming up and saying, "Wow! That looks hard! It's just like the time I got this paper cut and it hurt sooooo much....." Uh, no.

*Be positive. "I know you can get through this. You are a rockstar!" Soooo much nicer than focusing on all the negative aspects of a deployment which play in your head on repeat anyway. You would be amazed at how some simple uplifting words can turn someone's entire day around.

*Be sympathetic. This includes refraining from babbling to excess about the latest romantic date night with your hubby, or other topics that might be hard for someone without their spouse to hear. Are you entitled to talk about it? Of course, but we are also entitled to start sobbing or walk away from you. Many times, a military spouse just wants to vent. The reason we hesitate to vent to a civilian is that they don't understand what you are going through and furthermore, most don't even try. In a world screaming "TOLERANCE!!!," there is little sensitivity to families trudging through each day carrying the weight of two people. Listen to them, put yourself in their shoes and ask yourself what you would want someone to do for you.

*Be supportive. "What can I do to help?" Or better yet, "Bring the kids over Friday morning so you can go out and have some downtime!" "Do you all eat spaghetti? Good! I'm bringing a big pot of it over tomorrow night for your family to enjoy!" Offering general help is wonderful and immediately jumping into action is even better. Let's face it, it's harder to ask for help than to simply follow through on ready made plans. And be sincere. If you already feel overwhelmed, it's ok, but don't offer to help. There's nothing worse than bringing yourself to ask for help only to be rejected by someone who initially offered.

*Say prayers and give thanks. Pray for our modern day Heroes who selflessly sacrifice so that we can have the freedom to voice our opinion on the war they fight. Pray for their families who also proudly carry the burden. And when you see them, thank them for their service to our country.  Nothing means more than knowing people actually do care and support them. The military life is a not an easy one, but it is a blessed and necessary vocation.

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Lessons to Live By

Lessons I've been taught by others and some that I had to learn along the way:

Be kind. 
In big things, in small things, in all things, be kind

Think before you Speak.
If you don't know the facts (and even if you do), if it isn't harmful to you or dangerous to others, do not share it. Every rumor spread, can cause undue stress to a soldier and spouse, can ruin a marriage, can cost lives. If it doesn't hurt someone, if it doesn't put others in danger, if you don't know its accurate, if it serves no other purpose than to make someone else look poorly and to fill conversation, think before you speak.

Write in Pencil.
(Still working on this one)

Keep in Touch.
I don't think anyone is as good at this as Military Spouses are. I don't think anyone says, "If you're ever in __________, give me a call. We have a guest bedroom," and means it quite like a Military Spouse. We keep in touch and open our homes.

Everything is temporary. Before you know it, you'd have spent 20 years living among white walls. So hang your pictures, decorate the nurseries, paint.

Hope that in everything - it is going to be alright. Even when we cannot know, always hope.

Teach Her to Fish.
"Give a man a fish, he'll eat for a day; teach a man to fish, he'll eat for a lifetime."
Empower those new to this life; don't just enable them. We all need to be given the confidence that we can do this on our own but with the knowledge that we never have to. 

Plant Flowers

Thank the Veterans
Shake their hands. Give them a hug. Listen to their stories. Our lives would be vastly different if not for those who fought before. Never hesitate to thank them for it.

Take Pictures

Be in Pictures

Ask Him to Take Pictures

Learn to Say "No"
It is easy to want to do so much to help that we can neglect what is best for us and our soldiers - our families. In the times that you know you just can't give yourself for something, respectfully say "no." Most Military Spouses will understand - they have probably done so themselves.

Choose You Words Carefully
It is easy to forget when living in military communities, how little contact and communication some people have with our world. When someone asks something that seems silly, when someone just doesn't understand, when someone says something hurtful, remember you are of the 1%. This may be one of their only personal experiences with someone in our shoes. These moments can be defining moments. Take a breath, say a prayer, and choose your words carefully.

Lead by Serving
Some leaders are made because they hold others back to get there first. Great leaders are made because they helped others move forward. If you choose to lead in this life, do so humbly, do so in service, do so with the kindest of hearts. 

Keep Grace

Pray for your soldier. Pray for all of those who protect us. Pray for their families. Pray for those returning. Pray for those leaving. Pray for those training. Pray for those enlisting. Pray for those being commissioned. Pray for those who lead. Pray for those who follow. Pray for those who are wounded. Pray for those who care for them. Pray for our fallen heroes. Pray for those who mourn them. Pray for strength. Pray for courage. Pray for grace. Pray for peace.
Always Pray.

We are blessed to stand among the men and women that serve this nation. We are blessed to learn from each other. We are blessed to understand what it is to cherish someone in a way few people really can. We face heartbreak, we face unthinkable obstacles and we make it through. We rise above it. We support each other, we encourage each other, we share in this awe-filling journey. So - Celebrate it.

What have you learned? 

Thursday, April 21, 2011

A Stuck Clasp

I do not often get nervous. Okay, I'll be honest - I get phone shy (seriously) but that is pretty much it. Being in front of people has never scared me - both of my sisters are the same way. I started leading song at my church when I was fifteen years old and continued to do so until the week before I married C and moved away. In just a few weeks I will again leave my home to make a new one for my soldier to return to. Tonight was, most likely, the last time I would sing in this church for a very long time. It was an emotional thing for me from the start and with it I was also going to be singing what my mom always sings on this day. And it is sung a cappella (without music) in front of the entire congregation.  I had just learned it yesterday. Needless to say, I was nervous.

My husband gave me pearls for my first mother's day. I have always loved pearls. I have a fake pair in my ears nearly everyday (or try to) no matter what I am wearing. From time to time I fall asleep with my real ones still in my earlobes. But I rarely wear my real ones; I almost always am with my husband when I do. They are special to me so tonight I wore them - because I needed him to be there. I needed him with me. This was the closest I was going to get.

When the Mass was finished I walked to the back and my mom gave me a much needed hug. She said in my ear, "C would have been so proud." I heard the tears in her voice. It's incredible how a mother can know what you are thinking. I grasped my necklace as I walked out the door, wiping away my own tear.

This was a small moment - a special night that I didn't want to take from by mixing up words or losing my place or singing in the wrong key. I wanted so badly to contribute to this service - not to take from it by a mistake.

My husband has only heard me sing publicly once - in his parent's church. I wanted him to be here tonight - to calm me, to help me to focus - like he did then.

So I wore my pearls ... and I can't get them off ... seriously ... because he always undoes the clasp. And ... well ... my fingers are too pudgy, I'm too spastic and I can't see what I am doing. He always takes them off. I guess that's why I only wear them when he's here. Should've thought of that before ...

...This may take some time.

Oh well, good thing he's almost home. ; )

Tuesday, April 19, 2011

A House ... A Home

"You can paint?" she asked. I had checked into it when we decided to apply for post housing for the first time.

"Yes, I just have to paint everything back white before we move." She laughed. 

Trust me, I know how silly it sounds. Really, I do. 

I didn't paint our first house because we knew we wouldn't be there "forever." It took almost a year to really hang any pictures. Took almost two years for my husband and I to decide that mounting the TV to get it out of the reach of a toddler was worth patching the wall when we moved. I didn't plant flowers until the final spring we were in that house because what was the point of planting something I wouldn't enjoy when they got to bloom. I didn't turn the bonus room into much of anything until we were showing the house to rent. I didn't paint my first son's nursery because it was just going to be a "temporary" room.

We didn't build a fence. We didn't plant any trees. We barely did any landscaping. We didn't make that house a home - because it was temporary.

This time will be different.

I am going to paint. I am going to paint because for two years that post house is going to be my home. For two years my children will make memories in it and at some point scribble on the walls with a crayon that somehow wasn't in the drawer out of their reach. For two years I will invite people into my home - not a temporary place to stay. For two (maybe - crossing fingers -  three) years I will cook in that kitchen and watch my children's faces brighten as they turn on the Christmas lights strung along our painted walls and through the garland wrapped around our banister. For two to three years two little brothers will share toys and color and build a friendship in a decorated, painted room with pictures hung on the wall and airplanes hanging from the ceiling.

I will plant flowers that will bloom for the next family that makes this house their home.  I will plant flowers that will bloom for me and nurture flowers that will grow for them. I will make a welcoming entry for whatever spouse finds her way to my doorstep. I will take a cut of my mother-in-law's wisteria tree that was taken from her mother's house and plant it in the small yard and I will do it again every place that we go with the hopes that other's will do the same.

I will add color to our daily life, add our life to this house. I will take my time and my energy and turn just another house into another important part of our journey. I will make it ours while it is ours because all of the houses are temporary but the memories are not.

And what is so amazing about army wives and supportive parents is, even if they roll their eyes, even if they laugh at me too, they will take up a roll of blue tape and a paintbrush and a bucket (and maybe a glass of wine) and help to make a home with me.

Everything is temporary ... and I am going to paint!

Sunday, April 17, 2011


I waited until he was out of my sight. Waited for just a few moments more. A few moments when I began to feel the multitude of eyes shamelessly staring - it seemed like the entire terminal was staring at me - witnessing my pain, intruding on our goodbye. A few moments when I could see people quickly turn their heads when they thought I was maybe going to raise mine and then slowly look back out of the corner of their eyes when they saw I didn't. I couldn't completely raise my head. I stared at the tissue wrapped between my fingers and turned my body. I didn't quite look where I was going. I knew that everyone was staring at me. I knew whoever would move out of my way because whether or not I saw them, they saw me. 

I saw the shoes first - saw them just peek beyond the white tissue that I had neatly folded between my fingers. A woman's black loafers on tiny, tiny feet. These feet didn't move like the others that had barely entered into my blurred vision. I looked up. Her head was just an inch or two shorter than mine, her cheeks shined from the dampness covering her wrinkled skin, she didn't wipe the tears. And then I noticed her arms. Her thin, shaking arms stretched as wide as they would go. She didn't say a word.

With the smallest movement she waved her hands inward, inviting me to her. Without hesitation I fell into her petite frame. Her arms closed around me with a gentle firmness that only a woman of aged wisdom can possess. She cried with me. She wiped my tears. 

"What is his name?" she held my face in her hands as she asked.

"C_____." She nodded, paused, as though committing it to memory.

"What is your name?" she continued.


"I will be praying." She softly patted my cheek and ushered me past.

Everyone serves a purpose. To someone at some time we all have a purpose. The smallest act, the simplest gesture can do a world of good. Each one of these tiny acts, each fulfilled purpose, first comes with a choice. To look away or to watch for someone else to say something, someone else to do something, for someone else to step up.  In everything we have a choice. In everything we have a purpose - no matter how small it may seem. We all have a purpose.

This woman stepped forward into the path of a heartbroken woman - a heartbreak that is so often misunderstood in the civilian world - and she fulfilled a great purpose. She provided much needed comfort. She provided unexplainable kindness.

Do something good. When you want to look away from someone else's misfortune, someone else's heartache, take just a second and choose. When you want to share that latest bit of gossip about another spouse, take a moment and choose your purpose.  Drop a flower with an encouraging note on the doorstep of a military spouse you know is having a hard time - or on the doorstep of a spouse that you don't know whether or not they are having a hard time. When you have that littlest feeling in your gut or that subtle tugging on your heart that "someone should do something," or that "something just seems a little ... " a little off, a little down, a little ... When you have that feeling that you should give 'someone' a call, that you should bake that extra batch of cookies, that you should invite 'someone' to meet for coffee - decide your purpose.

You may never know how much good you will do but you always choose how much good you won't.

Had anyone every shown you an unexpected kindness? Please share it in the comments. It's always comforting to be reminded of the good in people. : )

Monday, April 11, 2011

One Percent

"So when he is home this next time, he's home for good." Its rarely a question - usually more of a statement. Like they understand, they get it. Or think they do.

"Yes ... well ... until the next one," I answer.

"He is going again? But he isn't even home yet."  (The usual response).

"One more. We know at least one more," I say for the umpteenth time.

"That can't be true. Aren't they all supposed to be out by 2011 ... 2012... 2013. He won't go. Don't worry about it." They usually nod their head confirming to themselves that they are right.

"No, we know the timeframe. He will be going again," again, for the umpteenth time.

"That can't be right. 'They' said ... " ("Who is 'they'?" I always ask in my head).

Yet again the same conversation. "Aren't they supposed to be out by (insert year here)?" And it never ceases to amaze me how people will argue with a soldier or a spouse about whether or not they will deploy again. You would think they would realize we might have a little better of an idea. I have stopped saying anything mostly or else the conversation goes more like this:

"He is going again? But he isn't even home yet."

"One more. We already know."

"That can't be true ... " 

"Ya-da-ya-da," I think until they assure me I must be wrong. "Well, we'll see," I usually shrug my shoulders. It's easier to let them think they are right.

We have the timeframe. We know at least one more. 

And I will consider ourselves incredibly fortunate. It will be only three twelve-month deployments in almost 9 years. For an Infantry family - we are so very fortunate. And like most active-duty families, we know the about time-frame for the next one before they even have boots on the ground from this one. 

This is our life.

"I thought they only had to do like two and then they were done. Right?"

I just laugh now when I hear it. Is that how I used to think?

I heard today that roughly one percent of the population has defended this entire nation for the past ten years. That one percent doesn't include the families that have also been worn by this battle. 

One percent.

At first it made this weight feel so heavy - back-breaking. 

One percent.

And then I thought how incredible. To be one of the few - to love one of the few. To be part of this great sacrifice for something far bigger than any of us. One percentage of people who have been given a strength that carries a nation, that ensures the future of the other ninety-nine.

To be part of this community of spouses that inspires and empowers and ensures that our soldiers are able to continue the work this one percent requires. To be strengthened by it, to be given the opportunity to thrive in it.

One more. At least one more. 

We can do that.

You can do that.

You are surrounded by the strength of that one percent.

"It's not the load that breaks you down. It's the way you carry it." - Lena Horne

Thursday, April 7, 2011

The Cost

"Do your younger soldiers know about the possibility of the delayed pay?" 

"What?" he asked - his face confused.

"Of the government shut-down? They may not get the next paycheck. They will be delayed." I continue.

His face twists,"They haven't fixed that?" he replies.

"No. Not yet. They may not in time." I forget how much of the day-to-day news they miss over there. "Some of your guys need to be prepared for that." He nods in agreement - clearly thinking about something. I wait to ask my next question.

"What are you going to do?" I ask simply not really sure if that was what I meant to say.

He looks square into the camera, "My job."

I have no intention of getting political here. I am not going to give my opinion on what is happening in Washington and around this country. I have said before that those things are never something I will discuss in this forum.

But please know, that no matter what happens in the next several days or weeks or months those who serve this nation will still lace their boots, and strap on their body armor, and place their helmets, and take up their guns, and fight the battles, and give their lives, without running water, without decent food, without air conditioning, without real beds, without being able to hug their children and kiss their spouses. They will stand to defend this nation - in unimaginable situations and at unspeakable costs.

They will still do what they have sworn to do without asking anything of you.

Not even a pay check.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

The Good

I don't think it will surprise anyone that I have had a rough several days. We have gone through a goodbye and everything that goes with it. Since we are getting prepped for a move, the "after" the goodbye included packing up his clothes, his shoes, his everything. He will not be coming back to this house when he comes home. I haven't taken his soap out of the shower - not sure why, just haven't. I went through one of those horrible "feeling in your gut" moments that seemed to last forever rather than two days. I watched C kiss his children goodbye, again. There is nothing harder than to see a father kiss his children goodbye.

I have been trying to find the good - to find the positive to write about. I don't like to share so much sadness at once. The heartache is real and I believe it is important to share but I don't like how much I put out there back to back. But this is, after all, one of the most heartbreaking times along this journey. I was waiting on one of those moments that inspire me to write - waiting for the ah-ha! Waiting for the "this will do good" moment. I was waiting for something BIG so I didn't notice how wonderful the small things have been.

"Codorato?" He repeated, questioning the word. "Daddy in Codorato?" He asked as I explained what the large box of bubble wrap was for.

"Yes, bug-ah. We'll see Daddy in Colorado. They have snow remember?"

"Snow!" He loves snow. "Eli in Codorato?" 

"Yes, Eli is coming to Colorado, too."

"Yay, Eli!"

It doesn't take much for a child ... 

Logan talks about C all the time. He gets excited about pictures. Eli responds to pictures. He calls him "Da-da." My children are doing okay - and maybe I haven't thought about it because there hasn't been any big moments. But that is a BIG deal.

Logan looked for him the first morning after he left - but he did okay when he didn't find him. Logan has gone right back to hugging his Daddy-Teddy and tucking him in at night. Logan has done great - talking about him, saying he misses him but not having a melt-down.

I have overlooked the resiliency of this child - the perfect innocence that has adjusted amazingly for this last bit of separation. I have overlooked the extra hugs he has given me because he has picked up on how broken I have felt. I have overlooked him crawling in bed with me to cuddle. I have overlooked that a just-turned-three-year-old has comforted his mother the only way he knows how. I have overlooked how much he has tried to help with his little brother. I overlooked the good - the young, sweet, genuine good - in my little boy.

I have been waiting for the melt-down - waiting for more of the bad. Waiting for our son to crumble to pieces. Waiting to become completely broken. I have been so scared of that moment - that I haven't been able to see all the rest.

That moment may still come. And if it does I will be ready - not because I have dreaded it but because I have chosen to move forward. Chosen to gain strength for the journey. To be prepared by continuing to thrive, continuing to push through, continuing to live.

My son healed me with his innocent heart - with his incredible determination to keep going. To move forward. To help. It is amazing what children can sense - what they figure out from our actions and our moods.

I found the good ...

in a three-year-old. : )

The Doorbell

Through all the training my husband has had - every course, every class, every airplane he has jumped out of - there is one that was the most difficult. Not all soldiers receive it - very few do actually. No one asks for it. There is no patch or tab or pin that you can add to your uniform for it. There is nothing that signals to those who see your uniform that you know how to perform this task. There is nothing that you "earn" through it. I know that my husband would give anything to not know what he learned from this class.

My husband has been trained as a CNO and a CAO. For those who don't know what those horrible letters stand for they are: Casualty Notification Officer and Casualty Assistance Officer. He is trained to both inform a family of the death of their soldier and to help them through everything that follows. I cannot imagine the load those who have to do this carry.

My husband has never had to perform this duty. I thank God for that.

"I need you to talk me down," my 1 a.m. text message read. "If you are awake that is." I needed my best friend to tell me what I already knew - but didn't know.

This was only the second time I had this feeling. But it wasn't making it hard to breathe this time around - it was making me physically sick. I felt like I had been punched in my gut and had regained my breathe but couldn't quite stand up yet. I felt ill. I felt weak. I felt like I couldn't stand.

It was a course of events that made me feel that way - not JUST that I hadn't heard from him. But it was what he has said the only time I had talked to him since he returned to Afghanistan. "Things are strange here. I don't know quite what is going on ... I'll call you when I wake up."

He said other things that made me uneasy but that I won't go into here. I could handle eight or so hours until he woke up to fill me in if he could. Just 8 hours of this confusion. 8 hours.

He didn't call. 

I emailed ... and emailed ... and emailed.

"Babe, you cannot say things like that on the phone and then not contact me. You just can't. I just need those two words. Let me know you're okay."

No response.

And then I let it happen - my mind wandered. I forgot how to reason - or my reasoning was just the worst kind. "If something would happen I would know. I know how this works. I know the process to a T. I know this. No, if something drastic happened no one could know for hours, maybe days. They are alone. Its different where they are. Something could have happened and I wouldn't know yet. It's possible that No One knows yet."

I took the boys and got out of the house. I didn't want to be there if my doorbell rang. I didn't want to know. I ran my errands, I went to a Starbucks completely out of the way. I circled the block before mine so that I didn't have to pull up and see a government vehicle in front of my house. I did anything to not be here. And when I was home I went upstairs, closed my door, and turned on the TV - anything that would make me not hear a doorbell. I fell asleep when the boys took naps. I hadn't slept at night and this seemed like a good time. I still felt sick.

"He's okay," I told myself. And then I decided to finally ask someone. I felt silly, I felt helpless, I didn't want to be the one who looked weak but I needed to gain a little sanity. I couldn't live like this. What if she answered no? What would happen then? I took a deep breath.

"Have you talked to your husband?" A simple message that to anyone else would seem innocent. To Army Wives we know why one asks.

Her reply was quick, thank God, I had forgotten to exhale, "Yep. No need to worry. He's okay. I'll tell mine to tell yours you want him to call." I could have averted all of this had I asked sooner. But I couldn't ask because I couldn't handle the other response. 

Instead I wasted a day and a half avoiding the doorbell.

When my husband was on CNO/CAO duty I would pray that he would not receive a call. I prayed that he never had to be that person - that he never had to ring a doorbell. That no soldier would lose his life - as I always pray. That he never had to be the image that we all have nightmares about. I prayed the entire week(s) he was on the rotation. I didn't want him to carry that. How could he carry that? How does anyone carry that?

We dread the doorbell - more than anyone else will ever understand.

Saturday, April 2, 2011

Nothing Left

"Daddy? Where are you, Daddy?" He was in the closet now - searching for him. "Daddy?" He kept walking around the room - next into the bathroom. He leaned around the shower curtain, "Daddy? Where did you go? Daddy?"

I couldn't cry anymore.

"I don't think we should take the boys to the airport" he had said. Relief flooded my body. The image I had developed in my head of Logan giving the fight of his life to keep his daddy with him haunted me the night before. How could I get through that? How could C get through that? The tears instantly started streaming. 

I cried all morning. I cried more than I have ever cried on a day like today. I cried when he tied his boots. I cried when he kissed Eli goodbye. I cried when my mom held Logan back while we got in the car for the airport. I cried when they gave him his boarding pass. I cried when the attendant upgraded him to first class. I cried when she gave the slightest wink and an understanding smile. I cried when I saw the plane come to the gate. I cried when he decided to keep his ring with him. I cried when they called First Class passengers. I cried as he walked through the line. I cried when I saw people staring. I cried when I couldn't see him anymore. I cried when a wonderful stranger was also crying and then when she gave me a hug and still when she asked his name so she could pray.

I cried when my mom called to see if he was gone. I cried while I waited for the plane to leave. I cried as I walked back. I cried when I made eye-contact with the same workers who had watched us walk in together and now watched me walk away alone. I cried when Eli kept saying "Da-da" throughout the day. I cried when I laid Logan down to bed and handed him his Daddy-Teddy. I cried myself to sleep.

I have never cried this much. I have always been good to barely cry in front of him. I have always been able to find a way to hold it back. I have no tears left now.

For whatever reason - this time was harder. For whatever reason - this one hurt a little deeper. For whatever reason - I could not stop the tears.

Come home safe, C. See you soon.


(Again, this has been posted well after the fact.)

I listen to the steady breathing that only accompanies the deepest of sleep. I watch the wave of his body slowly rising and falling beneath the white comforter. Slowly - up and down. Up and down. I just barely feel the slightest change in the mattress with each small movement of his chest.

There will be no sleep for me tonight. 

How quickly this time has passed through my hands. How quickly this last night came to be. How quickly were we here again. The waiting for the end - or the beginning - or whatever it is.

How quickly.

And I know to be grateful for this time. I am so deeply grateful that I was able to hold him and to have him hold me. That our children were able to make memories with their father. That my little, little boy walked to him time and time again, arms raised, saying "Da-Da." That for a small time any night I had a nightmare I could wake up, reach out for him, and have him be there. To not reach for air. To reach for skin and to find it. I am so heart-fully thankful.

But tomorrow I will watch this man kiss his children good-bye - children that have a much different understanding of what this is than they did a lifetime ago. Tomorrow my days-shy-of-being-three-year-old will understand what it means when his daddy walks away from him. Tomorrow strangers I will never know will watch one of the hardest moments of our lives and not understand. Tomorrow I will see the pain in the face of the strongest man I will ever know as he turns from his children and from his wife. Tomorrow I will not be able to make my Logan understand why his Daddy won't let him follow. Tomorrow I will hold onto my sons with every strength that is left within me. Tomorrow this man will take the ring from his finger and place it into my hand leaving me to carry both. Tomorrow will break our hearts.

... Breathe ...

God, give me grace.

Tomorrow is here.