On one hot summer day, I packed up and loaded myself, my rifle and my gear onto a plane for a dusty hot place half a world away. I had given birth just 5 short months before to my second angel baby and my emotions were out of balance to say the least! I said goodbye to my most prized assets, my family- my husband and our two children, in the name of selfless service to our great nation. I felt like I had my heart ripped out and torn into little bitty pieces in the slowest most painful way, but I survived.
I have had this horrific responsibility to tell a handful of wounded Soldiers that one of their best loved comrades was killed in combat. I listened to the cries and shouts of anger from some of the strongest young warriors I have ever met. “How could this be?” “No, not him, anyone but him.” I looked into their eyes and saw a thousand yard stare that I thought was expired with the Vietnam War.Their tear stained faces marred with shock and disbelief still flash into my mind when I hear of another lost.
I have embraced a young mother of a beautiful 18 month old little girl while we wept over her husband’s flag covered coffin. I didn’t know the Soldier personally, but after dedicating my life for 3 months to the care of his family, I feel like I am part of it now. I wear his name on my wrist most days as a reminder to never forget the sacrifices that have been made so I can live the life of freedom I so dearly cherish.The ultimate sacrifice is not only given by the one whose life was cut ever too short, but also by the ones whom he loved and will continue to bare the burden of the service he volunteered.
Along-side and intertwined with the mother of a fallen hero, I have told my story of the depths of war to other soon-to-be Casualty Assistants. As I walked up to this Mom we hugged unabashedly and with sincere love in front of four score of battle hardened Army Leaders because I had become part of her family. I helped ensure her baby-boy would get every honor he deserved and went above and beyond what “the book” said I needed to do. I don’t write this because I want glory or recognition; I just did what I would want someone to do for me if the roles were reversed. That day I watched the faces of the Army Leaders twist and twinge at the thought of this hollow duty they could be called to perform while I recounted the days and months surrounding our trip to Arlington Cemetery.
Now yesterday my husband stands tall in his “super-suit” and boards a plane to a dangerous place. I held my 5 year old son who couldn’t stop crying as he internalized Daddy’s departure and recalled how it felt when just a couple short years ago he lived through Mommy’s deployment. How do I answer the already posed question, “but what if Daddy dies?” I know what I tell myself to feel better, but what do I tell a 5 year old? Truth be told, I lied. I told him Daddy won’t die—and I sincerely hope I am correct, but I cannot know the future.
One of my best friends recently sent me a moving story of a child who was complaining to her mother about “everything” that was going wrong in her life. She was failing a class, her best friend was moving away and her boyfriend broke up with her. Her mother was baking a cake at the time and asked the child if she would like a snack to make her feel better. The child was ecstatic because she loved her mom’s cake! Mom said, “Okay, darling, here is some cooking oil for a snack.” “Yuck!” said the child. “Well, fine how about some raw eggs or flour?” “No mom, who would eat that?” “I guess no one would purposefully eat them by themselves dear, but when you put these “yucky” things together the right way they make a delicious cake.”
God works in much the same way. We may not like the taste of what we are put in the middle of, but when we add all of these ingredients together it comes out perfectly and delightful every time.
This shall be my biggest challenge yet. I did not enjoy living through any of the circumstances mentioned above. No one would. But inevitably I know that only He can get me through, and I’ve read the last chapter of the book—it’s good! When I’m lonesome, He sends me a friend with a hug and I shall continue to lean not on my own understanding and trusting that with Him, this will be a Piece of Cake!
“Trust in the LORD with all your heart and lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways submit to him, and he will make your paths straight” (Prov 3:5-6)
“I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength” (Phil 4:13)
Reflection Question: Are you too busy balking at the individual ingredients to enjoy the piece of cake?