My loving, relational, Heavenly Father delivers it in a deluge in the moment, filling the sword wound, binding my heart … but it requires a lifetime of surrender lived out moment by moment.
We’ve said goodbye in so many places, and in so many ways. A cavernous Air Force hangar built to hold beasts of planes, used to herd my husband off to war. Countless airports. After the first few times, passionate embraces in full view of those poor ticket agents just cease to be embarrassing. Or, you forgo the kissing and give him a quick peck and do the casual goodbye because it almost feels routine, never mind that after you drop him off you will head home and do your absolute best to not leave the house for two weeks. Two weeks is about what it takes for me to get used to my new normal, to single parenthood, to the undercurrent of worry, to the well-meaning but horribly misguided friends and strangers who think what you really need to hear right then, is their opinion on the war. Ummm, no thanks.
Said goodbye in more aircraft hangars. A lot of aircraft hangars. Said goodbye when we had six months to prepare, or two months, or two weeks, or a full year.
Said goodbye to my husband praying it was only temporary. Said goodbye to one of my best friends at her funeral. Said goodbye to unborn babies I wanted so badly to live. Said goodbye to my sweet firstborn girl for a year, praying it was only temporary.
I say goodbye to my husband every day (except this year) in a community where they knowingly put themselves in harms way in training. I mean, they get to fly helicopters, so it’s not like they aren’t having fun, don’t feel too sorry for them … but the specter of loss is there. Has happened.
You’d think, with all these goodbyes, with the experience, there would be a callous on my soul. A hard spot, rubbed raw and scabbed over, that absorbs the blow, that lessens the fear, that offers up platitudes. “You’ve done this before, you can do it, everything will be okay,” etc. All the inane, true-ish statements that are essentially my psyche’s attempt to put a band-aid on a sword wound.
I don’t. I admit, I have the administrative details down. It is a well choreographed ballet of paperwork and office visits, and new benefits, and legal documents that I fear will be our final legacy to our children. But the good-bye?
A gaping wound every time.
Interestingly-or maybe not, I don’t know, it is to me-each deployment is wildly different. Different circumstances, different preparation time, no kids, kids, young and naive, older and less dumb. And yet, each time, I truly believe, deep down and with conviction, that I know what’s coming. That I have done this before and I am prepared for what is coming.
But I don’t. I’m laid low, humbled by my sin, my worry, my fear …
I’d like to tell myself that the next time, (and there is still a next time), I will be more prepared to be unprepared, but I know that’s not true. I’ll keep fooling myself until then, though. It’s really a practical application of 2 Corinthians 12:9, “But He said to me, ‘My grace is sufficient for you, for my power is made perfect in weakness.’” The grace I need it, when I need it.
My goodbyes are just a snapshot in a gallery of thousands. Certainly not the prettiest, the most unusual. In our world, it’s a little routine.
That’s why I am writing this today – not because I have to say goodbye – (thankful for one year school assignments) – but because two friends just did. Both are veterans of the process … I want to say third and fifth times? … and my heart aches for them because being an old pro doesn’t mean you have a callous. I don’t presume to know their daily stories, I can only tell you mine … and frankly, they probably handle it waaay better than me. But I want you to think about them, to pray for them, to remember as you go about your day that there are men and women saying goodbye, hoping and praying it’s temporary. That there will still be some that learn in a crushing, life-shattering moment that it was permanent. That there are (incredibly precious) little girls wise beyond their years and learning to live without dad a year at a time. That there are thousands of those girls, and boys. And wives, and husbands saying goodbye.
Thank you. Thank you Mrs. E, Mrs. S. And all the others I don’t have the privilege of knowing but do have the blessing of praying for.