There was a comment left on Promises yesterday that has been going over and over again in my mind. This person asked "How" ... how do you let them go. The final part of it is what sticks with me. This person asked:
How do you know if you will see them again ...
The words have stuck with me throughout the day because the response is so very simple, and so very, very hard.
When someone you love leaves for the battlefield you just don't know.
Every time C has walked away from me ... I knew that that could be the last time I saw his smile, his eyes, his broad shoulders. Every time it took everything in me to not let that break me. Every time I saw this man kiss his children goodbye, I begged God to let them always have a father.
His boots walked the streets of Baghdad. He has kept those same boots because somehow - somehow - his men and himself survived every IED, every attack, every suicide bomber, all with those dirt covered boots on the ground. With the stats of that deployment, that very well shouldn't have happened. But it did. He survived. His men survived. They made it home.
There were moments my chest felt like it would burst, like my heart could feel the danger, knew the possibility that this day was the last day he could be standing. There were times when it took everything in me to push through, to keep breathing, to keep praying and believing and "knowing" that he was coming home to me - because there isn't room for anything else.
I know what C wants at his funeral. I have sat beside him, held his hand, and listened to every detail, every directive, every request. It isn't normal in any other life to know that at my age, for my spouse at his age. There isn't a funeral I sing where the families have selected the same readings, the same songs that I have to put the familiarity of those selections to the back of my mind. There isn't a single time that I do not have to fight back tears.
There isn't a moment I see a flag draped coffin that I don't have to remind myself to breathe.
I have fallen to my knees in throat-burning sobs because I needed to know that he was coming back. That there was more to this journey. That this was not our end.
I have seen the fear of leaving his family in C's face. I have seen the same fear in C's eyes. I know he fears it. I know it is his greatest struggle - the idea of leaving his children without a father.
We don't talk about it. We don't have to.
I know my soldier. He knows his wife.
That fear never goes away.
But how we live in every way, every single day must be in spite of that fear, in spite of the possibility. We live everyday with the mindset that they are coming home. They will come home.
We must live each day as a day worthy of our time, our energy, of the sacrifice. We must live each day worthy of our children's joy. What image have we given them? How do we want them to live? In fear? Or with joy and strength and determination? They mimic what they see.
We cannot know. As much as I hate that, we cannot know. But we must hope and believe and embrace the battle ahead. It's how you thrive - how you at the very least survive.
The last thing I have always said to C is "Come home to me."
Every time. He always nods, slight, simple, just a nod but it is what I need.
I hold onto that. He's coming home. Coming home to me.
Because there isn't room for any other thought.