My husband embraced me tightly before walking out the door with his bags slung over his shoulder. I trailed behind him as he stopped in the driveway for a hug and photos with our oldest son. My husband, dressed in full uniform, stood with his arm around our little boy, who held a small, black chalkboard sign that read “First Day of First Grade” (it also happened to be his seventh birthday). After photos and final goodbyes, the kids and I watched my husband’s silver pickup truck back out our driveway and pull away. As soon as he was out of sight, an adrenaline rush of anxiety hit me like a shot of caffeine awakening me to the danger he drove toward.
A birthday, the first day of school at a brand new school, and a deployment all in one day was a lot. But this was not our first experience with deployment. In fact, in ten years, I’d lost count of the birthdays and milestones interrupted or missed and the number of goodbyes we’ve said that made us wonder if they’d be the last.
I stood there in my driveway, closed my eyes, and breathed in deeply, slowing my racing heart. I attuned my spirit to the Lord’s dwelling within me. I would live in awareness, not of danger and of the unknown but of the presence of the Lord with me.
Several weeks later, the buzz of my phone woke me just before dawn. The screen showed five missed calls. I immediately knew something was wrong. My phone vibrated again as I held it. I sat up and answered. It was my husband. I exhaled an anxious breath from my lungs. He wanted to reach me before I turned on the TV and saw the news. Through hurried, hushed words that lacked detail, he told me he was safe, but others were not. I felt weak and weepy, but I just listened quietly. He spoke with composure, but I’ve known his voice long enough to hear the emotions he was trying to repress. With forced stoicism, he told me to pray and to tell our two sons that he loved them. The goodbye felt permanent. I slid off our bed onto the floor as tears slid down my cheeks and prayed with my forehead resting against our mattress.
During that deployment, my husband was on a mission that killed one of his friends. Any comfort we tried to offer each other thousands of miles apart in the midst of a traumatic tragedy fell short. And due to his position, I could only confide in a couple of friends. I spent days and nights battling rounds of worry and crying. In the panic, I wanted peace, and in the mourning, I wanted comfort.
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