It was the best of times, it was the worst of times. It’s a line from a Tale of Two Cities written way back in 1859, but I still feel like it accurately portrays my life right now. (Trite, overplayed, right? That’s what you’re thinking right now? Well the only other opening I had was going to be something about the Circle of Life, so be glad I spared you the Mufasa references).
I was working a few nights ago and a friend of mine who is also a soldier from Daren’s company came in pretty shaken up, another soldier in their company had died. I felt so bad for him, and I just hugged him. As weird as it sounds, I felt useful again. I was the strong one who got to be the shoulder to cry on. I got to be there for him just like he and so many others had been there for me. He said the ramp ceremony would be that evening and I immediately answered, I’ll go.
Only two weeks after Daren’s death, but I wanted to be there for his men. I just knew it was the right thing to do. So, Cindy (my coworker), me, and two of the soldiers went to the ramp. I stood there in the same place that I had stood just two weeks prior, taking it all in, seeing soldiers with that same patch, seeing the general again, it was all such a familiar sight. But this time it was different, I didn’t feel that sense of dread. I knew who would be in that box. There was no unknown this time. As I stood there recalling every sight and sound from the night of Daren’s ramp, I realized it could never be that bad again. A ramp will never break me again like it did that night. Once you have experienced the worst hurt, you can survive anything. As I stood there honoring another fallen soldier I said a prayer for his wife, child, family and friends. This time instead of just feeling bad for them for a few moments and then moving on with my life, I could feel for them in a completely deeper way. I could understand where their pain was coming from and I dreaded for them what they would have to go through. I’ve been there now.
The very next evening at work I got to watch an Airman go through the nervous, excited, grueling, 24 hour ordeal of his wife giving birth to their first baby. My coworkers had set up Skype for him in our office and he naively thought his wife would get induced and he’d watch the baby just pop out a couple hours later. I tried to warn him days before that it would take a long ass time (he asked me to define long ass, I said oh no shorter than 12 hours), but he didn’t believe me. (We see who won that bet). It was amazing to witness his tears and shouts and just the human emotion of seeing something he created come into this world. Then he waved us over to the computer and introduced us to his beautiful healthy baby girl and her glowing mother.
In 24 hours I had seen death and life. Nothing can prepare you for that.
When I talked to my friend in Daren’s company I told him how I hated this one particular pic of Daren because he wasn’t smiling and looked so serious, but obviously it had been recent because he had his 1st LT bar. His response was, oh yeah that’s his death picture, we all just got ours recently retaken. What?!?! Death pictures? I mean one second I’m talking to an airman about the birth of his baby and the next I’m talking to a soldier about death pictures. They definitely did not put this in the job description… but even if they did, how would you prepare?
As I thought about that lil baby girl, I thought maybe God thought the world just needed more room. It dawned on me, maybe Daren wasn’t TAKEN, but he was CHOSEN. That small seemingly inconsequential verb change made all the difference in my understanding. He chose him because he knew the answer, if he was needed, Daren would go. We all knew if God had asked him to sacrifice his life, he would’ve said yes. He did. In a nation where only 1.5% of our population is serving in the military and two wars were raging, Daren chose infantry, the front lines. I used to hate the insanely overplayed church song, Here I Am. Now I find it appropriate and comforting.
Whom shall I send? Here I am Lord, is it I Lord? I have heard you calling in the night. I will go Lord, if you lead me. I will hold your people in my heart. –song by Dan Schutte
I just have to keep going and trust in God that there is a plan for my life and the lives of everyone I meet. It’s really hard sometimes, but there is beauty in the world and we just have to keep searching for it.
|Photo of me my boss took a couple days ago after closing down the center for the night.|
Lyrics to another favorite church song of mine that I can't get out of my head:
I am the Word that leads all to freedom
I am the peace the world cannot give
I will call your name, embracing all your pain
Stand up, now, walk, and live
Do not be afraid, I am with you
I have called you each by name
Come and follow Me
I will bring you home
I love you and you are mine
-You Are Mine by David Haas