When Lane arrived to this unit, they were already overseas so he signs in, kisses us goodbye, jumps on a plane, meets up with his guys in the Middle East.
I tell him this isn’t my favorite way to do a deployment, new and alone and not quite sure how I’m going to make it through, who’s going to be there to help me make it through?
He tells me he loves me, he’s proud of me, but then he has to get off the phone, there’s things going on over there. I do what military wives do- I keep going, one day at a time, is there another way to get through hard things?
Seven days after Lane gets overseas, one of our guys is killed.
We’re brand new to the unit, but I go to the Memorial Ceremony anyway. It’s the middle of July in Georgia, but the Savannah square is packed. Guys from our unit are in formation. News crews and families and city officials gather together.
Everyone’s in black, some are crying, we’re all hot.
I find the Ranger Wives, we stand together. It doesn’t really matter that I don’t know anyone yet, I realize, they gather me in just the same. We’ve said goodbye to our husband the same, our hearts are broken the same, we take care of each other the same.
Two of the wives have their elbows hooked together as they stand, I see their white knuckles as they hold each other’s hand tight. They both look like if it weren’t for the other, they would actually collapse, leaning on each other to hold her up as she holds you up, not saying a word, tears streaming down their face.
They’ve begun to let the crowd inside at this point, but so many attend it’s standing room only. Half of the crowd makes it inside, half of the crowd is outside in the middle of July in Georgia.
The guys are still in formation, full dress uniform in the Savannah heat.
The wives are still gathered together, still remaining strong but only because we’re borrowing each others strength, holding each other up, tears streaming down.
The ceremony continues on, then from the side of the synagogue, two people wheel out a cart with water and cups.
Without missing a beat, without being told what to do, it’s the wives who rise up to help.
These Ranger wives, these strong ones, these broken-hearted ones, spring into action. We gather cups of water, two at a time, pass it to each other, here take these, hand them out. We get water to the soldiers first, we hand them out to the news crews, we give it to each other when everyone else has been taken care of.
We walk around again, gather the empty cups, bring them to the trash.
We still have half of the deployment to get through after this-
How do you endure after your heart is broken?
How do we keep going when the fear feels too big, too hard to keep going?
I think about this as I hold the cups of water, as I see the girls shoulder to shoulder, as I walk around to gather the trash-
I begin to wonder that day if this is a glimpse of how we make it through- by being the ones who hold each other up, hand out water, take care of your needs as you take care of mine.
Seems simple, but I remember the relief I felt when one of the girls handed me a cup of water when I was thirsty.
Maybe taking care of each other in the most basic, simple of ways is how we give each other strength to make it through.
After the ceremony, my heart is shredded but I have 10 minutes before I have to pick up the girls so I race into the commissary to grab milk and a loaf of bread, as I walk to the front I pass bananas and I grab some of those, too.
Somehow but I don’t know how, when our hearts are shattered, we remember the bananas, too.
I’m distracted while checking out, I think my cashier can sense it and asks if I’m doing okay.
I say I’m fine but I just went to a memorial ceremony. My voice catches when I say I’m fine so it’s obvious to us all I’m not actually fine.
“Oh, child,” she says. “Come here.” She stops what she’s doing, walks out from her station, gathers me up in her arms. “I’m sad about him, too.”
I start crying right there in check-out station #3, held in my cashier’s arms.
I’m not quite sure how I’m going to get through the rest of the day, what I’m going to say to the girls when I pick them up about where I had been. But my cashier had seen a broken woman standing in front of her, paused what she was doing, walked from her space to mine, and held me in her arms.
I don’t remember how I got through the day or what I said to the girls, but I remember being held up and held together by a woman full of love when I was broken.
Maybe being the ones to pause what you’re doing, see the broken woman standing in front of you, hold her in your arms, is how we give each other strength to make it through.
The other night, one of my girls can’t sleep, scary dreams, we’re up most of the night together. We’re on the couch the next day and I learn it’s a combination of the news stories she catches- the Capitol, the pandemic, the major losses of 2020 that feel never-ending.
I can sense this part in her the most- how the fear and the brokenness feels never-ending and she wonders if she’s ever going to make it through.
I have no idea what to say to my broken-hearted girl, but I begin with “Kiddo, it’s okay to feel sad right now, it’s okay to be worried, it’s okay to not know how things are going to turn out. There’s a lot of hard things going on right now…”
“…But I can tell you this: There’s going to be a day when it doesn’t feel this way.”
She looks up at me, doubt in her eyes, then a question: “Mommy, have you ever felt this way before?”
I tell her I have, that there’s a word for it even -anxiety- and I know what it feels like to have my heart race and my mind spin and to not be sure if I’m ever going to feel safe again.
She asks, just to be sure, “You’ve felt this before?”
“Yep, kiddo, I have. And I can tell you that it’s not always going to feel this way. But for now, I’m right here with you.”
Later in the night I hear her saying to herself “Mommy got through it, I can too. Mommy got through it, I can too.”
I realize that when I held her in her brokenness, shared some of my own, I actually shared some of my strength with her too.
Maybe not being afraid of brokenness, sitting with each other in it, but promising not every day is going to be like today is how we give each other strength to make it through.
Life is busy and units are busy and members across the military are still gone training and still leaving families to deploy and the world is broken and the country is broken and I feel the same question I did that day that Lane deployed- I’m not quite sure how we’re going to make it through.
But it makes me think of a question someone asked me the other day- what is one thing you’ve learned through serving in this unit that you didn’t know when you got here? My answer surprised me but without a doubt it’s the truest one I know to give:
Connection forged through brokenness is stronger than I ever knew, and as we’ve gone through suffering alongside each other here, our lives are richer and deeper and stronger because of it.
Community holds each other up and I wonder if that’s how we keep going- not because we have to, but because of each other.
So let’s get each other some water.
And let’s walk on out and give each other a hug.
Lets share our brokenness which is really sharing our strength and give each other some hope that I made it which means you can, too.
And so the next time I wonder how we’re going to endure, all I need to do is look around and do what I see in military wives all over the place, strong and mighty women rising up to take care of each other in any way, through anything.
I’ll share my strength with you, you share your strength with me.
We’re gonna make it.
Struggling with the demands and depletion of military life? Maybe this will help: 5 Ways I Stay Sane in This Military Life. Click here and I will send it quietly to your inbox.
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