Dec 8, 2016

The Good In It All

{photo by kdarling photography}
"I believe that words are strong, 
that they can overwhelm what we fear 
when fear seems more awful than life is good." 
— Andrew Solomon 

I thought writing would come easier to me once he left, but it hasn't. I've focused a lot on the feelings that hurt. And maybe that's just because there are a lot of those. When Millie crept into my room crying after I'd been away for only a couple of hours, it's one of a million reminders that life right now isn't normal. It's a lot more fragile, with a lot more grace needed and a lot more hope required.

I never imagined I would be an Army wife. I've never even been overly patriotic, really- I do think our country is so blessed, but it's also very flawed. Lately, though? Seeing a flag gently waving in someone's yard is akin to having them play our song. Politicians love to talk, but the real, tangible support comes from Betty at the post office, who stamps my customs forms every week. It comes from people at church and at our homeschooling group who have offered to babysit if I need a break. It comes from my mom, who lets me cry, and hung a blue star flag in her window all the way in the mountains of Oregon. It comes from my dad, who keeps me laughing and watches the kids on a weekly basis, so I can clean the house and lug groceries up the stairs.

A few weeks ago, the head librarian in the next town over called, excitedly telling me that Millie and Walter were in the little weekly paper there. We had visited a Veterans Day presentation; a man looked at the kids and said, "Do you know the hardest thing your Daddy has to do? He has to go to bed every night without giving your mother a kiss. But he does it because he loves you and he loves this country." And so she texted me the page. She told me to let her know if we needed anything. Then she confided that her brother had served in Iraq and Afghanistan. So many people tell me that now. It's like a secret code of, "I understand." And they do, better than most people.

The real support doesn't just come from a military wife or family member, though. I'm learning that it comes from everyone who has been good to our family. Friends of mine who have never even met Sky are sending him care packages. It's so humbling to me. Family members have emailed or texted to check on us. Military spouses who are dealing with their own husbands being away have prayed for us. A new friend has a husband with a civilian job that constantly takes him overseas, and she prefaced her words with, "Of course, it's nothing like what you are going through." But it is- so much so. Because the pain of missing someone is something nearly everyone has felt, whether it's for a few days or the rest of life on this earth.

Today, I had a stranger (via the internet, of course) tell me to "be an adult, suck it up, buttercup", etc. when I commented on an article about the negative effects of deployments on families. Never mind that it was a scientific study and not someone's random opinion. What bothered me, on an already low day, was that someone I don't even know thought it was okay to chastise me for being sad because my husband is gone. I think one of the ugliest, worst things a human being can do is dismiss someone else's sadness, to downplay their experience and their emotions, or even go so far as to lecture them for it. But I guess on the internet, it doesn't matter if it's a deployment, or cancer, or losing a loved one- anything is fair game for a vicious attack.

Yet on this same morning of discouragement, I opened my door and found a package from an amazing milspouse friend on the other side of the country. She has quietly sent kindness after kindness to our mailbox over the years, with all sorts of great hand-me-downs for the kids and notes for me. Minutes after reading those words full of hate, I was able to open her card and read words of love. Words that soothed and put things in perspective. Words that actually matter. 

I've had more than one Starbucks card show up for me since Sky left, a sugary and caffeinated balm for those days that it's hard to keep going (praise the Lord for Starbucks, amen). I have had countless people remind me that they are praying for him and for all of us. I've been grateful to our sweet photographer friend who snapped shots of just us three for our Christmas card this year. We attended Sky's unit Christmas party last week, and the commander, leaders, and their wives shook my hand, and told me they're always there if we need anything. The outpouring of empathy has been nothing less than God-sent. When someone simply acknowledges that it's hard- hard for him to be away, and hard for us to miss him- they are really saying thank you. They're saying they appreciate what he is doing.

Some days, that makes it feel a little more worth it. But even on the days it doesn't feel very worth it at all, those kindnesses, large and small, help me get through this for one more hour, one more day, one more week, one more month. I look at the deployment calendar every night on my phone, hoping somehow that fifty days have gone by since I last checked. It's still a day at a time. The good in it all is what makes it possible to wake up the next morning and begin again.
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