The End of a World
Once upon a time a woman kissed her husband goodbye.
The tension created by the anticipation of his departure dissolved as she committed him to memory: the baby softness at the nape of his neck, the scar from a stick wielded by his brother, the hands that could caress their baby’s head or build a stone wall. And his voice. Especially his voice.
He promised to stay safe and to return home. They pretended the promises were guarantees, as if the words made their own reality.
Finally it was time for him to go. One more kiss, one more hug, one more exchange of I-love-you’s and then he walked away. She watched him until he disappeared into the crowd, adding his walk to her collection of memories.
His absence was a sharp pain at first, but after a while the routine of living dulled it to an ache. Busy-ness became her business; only activity kept her mind quiet. Thinking always grew into worry and then dread. She prayed, but she knew that God doesn’t always give the answer the petitioner hopes for, and she wasn't sure which course He’d choose this time.
She heard from her husband occasionally, and the communication was a two-edged sword. It was good to know that he was well, but contact reopened the wound of his departure.
Days passed, and each dawn brought her closer to his return. She started to think again, to allow herself to make plans for their future together.
One day she awoke to a morning filled with primary colors, as if the world were feeling hopeful too. She was putting on the baby’s coat and preparing to run errands when she saw the uniformed men walking to her door.
She could never recall the words that were spoken, only their meaning. Her husband, her best friend, the father of her child was gone. Their last kiss was the last kiss. The world as she had known it ended.
Later she would tell her daughter about her father, about how he gave his life so she could live without fear, free to follow her dreams. Sometimes, when the night stretched out before her like a desert, she wished he hadn’t been willing to serve, that he hadn’t felt compelled to answer his nation’s call, that he hadn’t been a man of honor. But then he wouldn’t have been the man she loved, and this conclusion always gave her a kind of peace.
On Memorial Day Americans remember those who gave their lives in the defense of our nation. Today I give thanks for the men and women who paid the ultimate price for my freedom. I also pray for all the loved ones left behind. May they find daily grace and peace and the courage to rebuild their lives.