DH deployed on a Saturday. I’ll admit there was a huge part of us that was relieved this day had come. Once we started, we could start counting down. The hardest part would be over. So that morning, we tried to keep as normal a routine as possible while finishing up last minute things (like recording DH reading for DD). When it was time to drive to the drop-off location, I sat in the back with my daughter, thankful for her sweet smile as I tried to keep it together.
When we arrived, I was unexpectedly overwhelmed with memories of past deployments. I saw those infamous white buses and so many thoughts flooded my brain. DH dropped off his bags. A photographer snapped a quick picture of us, and we headed inside. It was hotter in the building than it was outside. One would have thought this was a special enough occasion to turn on the A/C. Since we had an hour to wait (don’t you love the Army’s schedule?), we walked around mostly outside, giving DD a chance to run around. I was grateful for the chance to be a little removed from the heaviness inside.
|Last family photo for a while|
I did not know anyone there and felt the weight of this impending deployment all at once. I knew it was going to hit hard because although I had been processing it weeks prior, I was still doing remarkably better than previous deployments. And I was smart enough to know this wasn’t because I had just gotten better at dealing with them. It was simply that it hadn’t hit yet. I looked around at the other families and marveled that they were not crying. While my tears would come and go in spurts, there was no doubt I was upset. I always want to hold it together, to say what is most heavy on my heart – how much I appreciate his sacrifice, how desperately I will miss him, how I pray for his safe return – but every time I try to speak, tears prick my eyes and my throat swallows up the words. I just have to trust that DH knows me and will hear these words when I can better express them.
When it is time to draw weapons, we decide DD and I should go. After this point, we would not get to see DH except to get on the bus. I had watched that heartbreak in past deployments, and we all knew we couldn’t handle it now that we had a daughter. Regardless, it was beyond difficult to tear ourselves apart. Practicing a newly learned skill, DD waved bye-bye but had a bewildered look in her eye. Clearly she didn’t understand why we were saying goodbye to Daddy in this strange place. DH and I hugged and kissed, expressed our love, and DD and I walked back to the car.
As we left, I felt every raw emotion imaginable and wondered how I was ever going to be able to do this. But the words that reverberated in my ears were, “I can do all things through Christ who gives me strength.” (Philippians 4:13). To some, (and even to me, at times in my life), that verse has lost its meaning. But that Saturday in July, it was not trite. It gave me hope and strength. I knew I only had to get through that day. There was no need to look at the next 365 days. I pulled DD closer and whispered in her ear that we were ok, we were going to do this with the Lord’s help, and that we were going to have fun this next year. I buckled her into her car seat, and we drove home.
Walking through the doors of our house, I was immediately overwhelmed with thankfulness. I had my daughter with me and things I had to do to take care of her. That kept me from breaking down. Even when she napped and I had the time to dwell on my circumstance, I knew I could not get too upset else I’d get a headache and struggle to take care of her. The Lord was so gracious to give her to me and remind me of my job to make this the best 2nd year of her life. To do that, I couldn’t put pressure on her. I just had to relish the joy she brings. Even when she points to DH’s picture and lifts her hands to ask where he is, though I want to cry, I instead scoop her up and tell her he’s on a trip but loves us very much. This is enough for her, and we go about our day, missing him terribly but determined to enjoy what God has given us, even in the midst of pain.