The next day – a Saturday clouded over and drizzling with rain – Matt and I drove over to his company area to begin the long process of saying goodbye for a year. Last deployment, this took the whole day. Matt told me that things should move a little faster since he was traveling with the General. Sure enough, he signed out his weapon at the company area, we waited a few minutes with the General’s Personal Security Detachment guys and their families, as well as the Engagement Officer until their Blackberries started to ring. The guys were instructed to pick up the General directly from his office and leave from there. While this was very different from how the 1st deployment went, I was somewhat relieved. I wouldn’t have to wait with all the hundreds of families watching their tearful goodbyes as children clung to their dads and asked their moms why they had to go. Nothing breaks your heart quite like that!
Instead, Matt and I said goodbye in a parking lot in front of black Suburban’s instead of those awful white buses. Although we’d been preparing for this moment for weeks, I still felt like it caught me off guard. “Wait, we’re saying goodbye now?” Matt smiled and kissed me, promised he would call as soon as he could, and hopped into the Suburban. I watched them drive off, tears streaming down my face, my heart unbearably heavy, and headed home feeling like I’d been run over by a Mack truck. I was glad the goodbye was over but desperately wanted my husband to come back. Yet when I walked into my dark, echoingly empty house, I couldn’t help but smile. Yet again, Matt had packed his bags at the last minute and left our house in an undisputable mess. I have found that cleaning is one way I cope, so I instantly began to clear the clutter, wiping away my tears, glad for a task to complete. I couldn’t help but smile thanking God for giving me a mess to clean when I needed to do something productive. Funny what we find to be thankful for in the midst of hard circumstances. Lest you think that was the end of my meltdown, read on.
After the mess was clean, sadness engulfed me anew as I thought, “it’ll be a year until my husband is home, leaving messes for me to clean up.” What I wouldn’t give for him to make a pile of Army equipment in our living room! But having learned that if I let myself cry for too long I would not only get a headache but would have a much harder time digging out of the depths, I gave myself a time limit in which to be sad. I cried for about 30 minutes, then called my mom who always knows the right thing to say, then I spent some time reading God’s Word and asking Him to carry me through this deployment. With 365 long days stretching out before me, I asked Him to help me not count the days but to make the days count. What that would look like, I had no idea, and I honestly didn’t know if I was up for the challenge. But as always, God is faithful, and He sustained me in that deployment. He helped me thrive instead of just survive. (More on that in the posts to come!)
So while I struggled to find the good in goodbye, God stood by my side, whispering in my ear that in this too, He would bring good (Romans 8:28). No matter what goodbye you are facing today – whether it’s a husband going off to war, a child leaving for college, friends as you PCS once again, or an old pattern of behavior, know that God is with you. And one of the best things about Him is He will never say goodbye!