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Telling Them

March 1, 2010

It was time to tell them. To hope they’d understand.

Sitting on the couch, the four of us, cuddled close. We tried to explain.

We tried to smile.

“Daddy’s going to be far away. He’s going to do really nifty cool Marine stuff. He gets to ride on a bus and an airplane!”

Where is he going? Are we not going to see him anymore?

“Do you remember when Daddy went to Iraq when you were smaller? This place is close to Iraq. It’s called Afghanistan. Can you say Afghanistan?”

I don’t like those words! Our three year old furrowed his brow. Those are bad words!

Our two year old buried his head in Daddy’s shoulder. No go, Daddy. Stay home.

Their daddy’s rich brown eyes were glassy.

Daddy’s going to fight the bad guys, boys.”

Fight giants, Daddy? The two year old’s eyes were wide.

Will you be home when I get four, Daddy?

“No, Daddy won’t be home for your fourth birthday. No, not Christmas, either. But when you turn five, it’ll mean it’s almost time for Daddy to come home.”

But I’m not three. I’m not four either. I’m 21 now. I’m big and I’m going to go fight bad guys, too.

Help you, Daddy. Take mine sword!

“You have to stay here, guys. You have to take care of Mommy.”

No, Daddy. The three year old curled into a ball under Daddy’s arm. His little shoulders shaking and small voice broken with sobs.

No, Daddy.  The two year old stood on Daddy’s leg and wrapped his arms around Daddy’s neck, summoning all his toddler strength and squeezing hard.

My Marine looked at me over the heads of these, our precious ones, part of both of us. Our love displayed in the form of two little boys. One looks like him and acts like me. The other looks like me and acts like him. Binding us together for the rest of our days.

The moment, silent, still.

My throat closed so tightly, it threatened to suffocate me.

Is this really happening again, my beloved?

~~~

I’d like to give another family close to the military—whether you are the family, you are close to a Marine, Soldier, Airman or Sailor, or you know a military family who could be encouraged—a duo of books that have touched a tender spot in my heart.

The first is one I picked up at a library book sale months ago. I read it alone during nap time later that day and couldn’t stop the tears.

The book is simply called Daddy’s In Iraq, But I Want Him Back.

It was our story, in someone else’s words.

But really, it was the story of any family who has been through deployment. Because it’s not just the spouse or the parent who goes to war. The family left on the homefront is fighting a battle all their own, and just as important.

The second is Rain On Me, a powerful book of love-filled words by my sweet friend  Holley Gerth. She gifted me with a copy of her devotional a few weeks ago when I was in Nashville and I read it through, cover to cover, in two days. The gentle truths were written in the midst of a personal storm—and I couldn’t soak them up fast enough.

Holley has graciously offered a copy of her beautiful book to a reader here, and I’ve also secured a copy of Daddy’s In Iraq But I Want Him Back. We’d like to bless a family in or close to the military with this set of books. They are sure to be a treasure to whomever holds them in their hands.

To win the duo, simply leave the name of a military service member or family you love (even if–especially if–that family is your own) along with their branch of service. I’d like to make a list of these people, whether or not they’ve been through ten deployments or none, and keep them in prayer over the coming months. I’m not going to get gimmicky on you, because that’s not the point of this giveaway, but if you tweet about this and let me know you did so, you’ll get an extra entry.

I know you’ll be blessed.

I See (Really Nice) Dead People

February 21, 2010

This is our back yard:

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It is quite literally our backyard. That’s the back of our house, between the trees.

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We do our walking and sledding and exploring in the middle of a (very, very old) snow-covered cemetery.

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We’ve been trying to figure out what to tell our (very imaginative) almost four year old, when he thinks to ask about the funny shaped rocks with letters.

Well, son, there’s a bunch of dead people out back. Let’s go meet ‘em.

Personally, I could spend all day in a boomtown-mining-era cemetery. John and I have already taken a morning getting to know some of the families buried out there, learning their stories through numbers and names etched on stone.

My heart broke for the young Ella Foust, who lost a toddler the same year she bore another daughter, only to have the second little girl die at age 6. Ella followed both of them three years later, in 1895, at age 31. The space for James Foust’s name is empty, leading us to wonder if the grief drove him away from the snowy mountain town that claimed the lived of these three girls he loved.

I love an old graveyard.

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But our almost four year old has the most ridiculously active imagination I’ve ever seen someone his age.

His talk of the friends we can’t see starts to freak me out a bit until I remind myself John reminds me that this is the boy who pretends and believes he’s 21 years old, can drive and is Peter Pan. Also, he mentions that thing about having a God who is bigger than anything or anyone else… dead or alive. And that we don’t personally believe that the dead, you know, walk the earth or anything.

Let’s hope that’s all true, I said with raised eyebrows and a hand on my hip. Because otherwise he’s gonna have a whole heap o’ new friends to play with in that backyard. And I’ll be alone with all of them as company for the next year.

Don’t worry, he replied with a smug grin. This is our cozy little mountain mining town, remember? They’ll all be nice ghosts.

I love-punched his arm.

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Ok, Mrs. Ehlenfeldt, you can live just outside my back gate. I’d just better not find you making pancakes in my kitchen some morning.

What would you tell two extremely imaginative boys if YOU had a cemetery for a back yard?

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