Already? But you just started! No, I'm not talking about me and you. But saying good bye is weighing heavily on my heart right now. I have had to say good bye many times while living this military life- sometimes to friends who were close enough to be the sisters I've never had. There was a church family that loved my family and took extra special care of us while my husband was deployed. But the hardest of all is saying 'see you later' to the love of my life when he goes off to war. I've had to do it 3 times, and each time never gets any easier. Well, let me take that back for a second. The second and third times were a little easier than the first because he left me with a precious gift: the security in knowing that he was a child of God.
Still, the actual leaving, the knowing that he wouldn't be around to hold my hand, dry my tears, or see many of our kids' firsts causes an aching pit to open up in my stomach. We prep for it of course. Legal, medical, and financial affairs are all in order, but as the day draws near, it feels like a train barreling down on us. I certainly can't stop it, but I'm also helpless to move off the track. Every night I spend memorizing the feel of his arms around me and hope that the memory will be just as fresh on day 300 as it will be on day 3. It hits us with the day dawning just like any other. There are plenty of halfhearted smiles and a bit of tense laughter. Over and over, I repeat in my head, we'll be ok, this will end, you are strong enough for this. And then he's gone. Ripped from my arms by a sense of duty. If you've ever watched the love of your life deploy, I'm sure all of that is not news to you. I'm sure you felt many emotions when they got on that bus and relief was not one of them.
So now what do we do? The last time he left, he did so from the house. We opted not to go down to the deployment area in favor of maintaining our privacy. But wherever you are, eventually you are left alone with a bunch of little kids (in my case 4) clinging to your jeans and crying their little eyes out. The younger ones have no idea what's going on, but the sense of loss is palpable and so they cry too. So I ask again, what do you do? You cry too. Take those little bodies into your arms and sob right along with them. It's ok to show them that you are hurting too. No kids? No problem. Grab your own battle buddy and cry with them.
Eventually, I've always wanted to start a countdown, except for this last deployment. There will be no R&R in the middle and that makes for a very long time before I will get to trip over his boots again. This time, I decided to do a count up. The beauty of it is that the count up starts the moment he drives away. One. My heart breaks with the next beat, but that's one more heart beat I will never have to repeat without him. Two. Breathe in, breathe out. That's two breaths I'll never have to repeat without him. Three. Before I know it, three minutes have passed, then three hours, three days, three weeks, and three months. Look at me now, sitting here with three less months to go without him. No longer will he be gone for X amount of months. Now it will always be three less. No, not three, because we keep going. Four. Five. Six... So I count up. I revel in each little victory, and when the days become too long, I speed them up by counting smaller. One more breath, one more moment closer to his return...