About a year ago, we said goodbye as our boy hopped on a helicopter and left for his big adventure. The few weeks leading up to that time were so precious. Family came in from out of town to say goodbye. Friends stopped by to add their hugs and well-wishes for his journey. We talked a lot about life: what we enjoyed, what we wanted for the future, and how relationships change over time. We laughed a lot. I cried a bit. And I seized every moment I could to talk to, touch, hug, and generally love on that boy of mine. I am so glad I did.
The journey over the last 7 months has been difficult, to say the least. We are still journeying through the firsts of everything. Some are expected, like birthdays, anniversaries, holidays, etc. Some take me by complete surprise, like receiving his tag renewal notice in the mail or unearthing a pair of his boots in the coat closet I just cleaned out. Yesterday, that journey took a different twist.
Spencer's unit is coming home. I could not be more thrilled and excited to see those Spartan boots step off that plane. I am overjoyed that we will witness families be reunited, that we will get to hug friends once again, that we will get to meet people who were so important to our soldier.
But my son will not be getting off that plane. So. Incredibly. Bittersweet.
So yesterday, I was driving home from a gathering centered around our returning soldiers. It was so precious to be around these ladies whose husbands/sons/fathers of their children were coming home. The excitement, the relief, the pure love was evident as they set about the task at hand. I cannot adequately describe the sweetness of being in the presence of such joy.
And then I got in my car. It was the perfect storm of components for totally losing it. There was, in fact, a storm. It was raining, not just a little, but enough to cocoon me in anonymity in my van as I began to travel home. It was about a twenty minute drive, mostly interstate, in heavy rain, and no one was with me. I began crying. It turned to screaming. No words. Just screams. And lots of tears. Grief is a bitter, bitter pill to swallow.
In the near future, we will be standing in a crowd, waiting to see those soldiers get off that plane. The last thing I want is to put a damper on their return or to take away from the joy of seeing their families. So, we will stand aside, out of the way, and witness what has to be one of the most joyous sights we can ever have as Americans. We will watch with great pride and great rejoicing as these soldiers (who, by the way, have been and will continue to experience their own bittersweet moments) come back home. We will tell those who are hurting that Spencer would want them to get on with their lives, that moving forward is the best way to honor him, and that he loved being a Spartan. But mostly, we tell them "thank you," not just for their service to this great country, but for loving our boy and honoring him in all that they have done and will do.
And that whole time, a familiar feeling will be hovering over us. We will once again, for about the 10 millionth time, experience such conflicting emotions from such opposite ends of the spectrum. Life can be so incredibly bittersweet.