He is home. (Insert tremendous sigh of relief and a huge smile.) Actually, he's been home for almost 4 weeks. I've not been able to write about how I'm feeling until now. And even today, the thoughts refuse to flow fluidly. They are choppy, messy, scattered. Nine months. That is how much time, from my life with him, was taken from me. My husband spent the majority of his deployment in an unsafe, unsecured, remote area of Iraq. I'm unable to listen to many of his stories. Most of the ones I do hear are equal parts heartbreaking and infuriating. I can't begin to express my relief and gratitude that he has returned safely. The fact that many other families do not have such an outcome is never lost on me. That fact is always in my mind. And it is hard to bear. We only gave nine months, many others give and lose so much more.
War has made me cynical, and less capable of trusting those around me. My family suffered at the hands of others' self-serving interests, in ways I will never be able to freely discuss. When it comes to this world of ours, war has left me feeling cold and bitter. Therein lies the contradiction. One moment I feel cynicism gnawing...I am discouraged and overwhelmed with aggravation toward the people with whom I am forced to share this planet. A few moments later, I feel a softness in my heart that overcomes me. War granted me opportunities to see the very best in people. Experiences that have helped me love others more freely. Experiences that have left me ready to live fully, and enjoy my time on this Earth. My family felt the uplifting, strengthening power of prayer, our own as well as the prayers and "good vibes" of many others on our behalf. Selfish isn't it? The way I speak of how war has impacted my life?
What about him? For months, he lived in absolutely disgusting conditions, and rarely had a decent meal. The aid station, where he provided medical care for Americans & Iraqis, was hit. Mortar attacks were frequent, and robbed him of even one peaceful night's sleep. He was often conflicted, and left wondering why he was there. My husband longed to be home with us. It was hard for a man, who loves his family so dearly, to miss events such as his oldest son receiving the Priesthood. But he also missed things like taking the kids to school, Saturday chores, doing laundry...things that most of us find mundane, possibly even annoying. He has returned, a man closer to God. A man ready to live this life to the fullest. He has taught me much about forgiveness and patience. He has been blessed with an answer to the question that often dogged him. He knows, without doubt, why he went to Iraq. The answer is beautiful and has very little, if anything, to do with war. But everything to do with love, inner peace, and purpose.
What about our children? In two words: innocence lost. They lived months apart from their father, and it hurt. But, that separation has made them far more appreciative of the time they now have with him. They take very little of life "for granted". My children have learned the true meanings of gratitude and service, as well as gaining a clear understanding of what it means to sacrifice. They have had life lessons that stretch far beyond those most commonly learned by 12, 9, and 6 year old children. I have learned so much from them.
I thought I knew a lot about war. I thought I knew what to expect. I was prepared for many things, and unprepared for countless more. My eyes have been opened. I have witnessed the very best, and the very worst, in people. My appreciation, as well as admiration, of infantry soldiers and their families has grown immensely. I am eternally grateful for my husband's safety, words can not express how happy I am to have him back. At the same time, my heart aches for others.
Since his return, there have been several days when I've felt like a piece of taffy that's been left out in the sun. Over the past year, I've been pulled and stretched, rolled in a ball, pulled and stretched some more. And now, I'm melting. Melting back into life. A new life, a new normal.
What a cruel thing is war: to separate and destroy families and friends, and mar the purest joys and happiness God has granted us in this world; to fill our hearts with hatred instead of love for our neighbors, and to devastate the fair face of this beautiful world.