Wednesday, September 1, 2010

Homecoming

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.
~Robert E. Lee, letter to his wife, 1864

27 comments:

Sue said...

Perfect picture, wonderful news and beautiful, thought-provoking words.

It makes me beyond happy to see all of you together again. So many prayers have been answered.

And yes, we need to remember to pray for those who are not so fortunate.

But today, I am rejoicing in the fact that my friend and her family are...

Momza said...

Sue sent me.
She shoulda warned to bring a tissue.
Thank you for sharing these tender feelings so eloquent and candidly with us.
May your family be blessed for the sacrifices you've given, long after this war is over.
So glad your sweetheart is home safely.

Jamie said...

This is a beautiful post, you've given me a whole new perspective on war. Any war. For any reason.

I'm so glad your family is reunited. The joy you feel is evident on your face and manner in every picture. So happy, so joyful. So beautiful.

Dennis and Cherise said...

Natalie,
The saying "War Changes People" doesn't even begin to describe what it does to people. From one Army wife to another I understand your feelings. I too have a hard time trusting people know, I have gotten very good at distancing myself from others, just so I'm not hurt. When I think of this, I hurt, because I love everyone and want to be kind. It takes time to adjust to them being home, I'm sure you guys are still in the "honeymoon" phase. But things will never be like they were before he left. I love you and your family dearly. If you need anything you can email me at cherisemari@yahoo.com I am always willing to talk or if you just need to vent about the Army =)

Kari said...

Thanks Snarky! Like I said, the pins and needles were starting to get a bit painful. After reading your post I had many different feelings: rejoicing because he is home, thankful he is home all in one piece, thrilled the kids have their daddy back and just so many more emotions it's hard to straighten them all out in my head.

And as for my thoughts about you; the words, "Welcome to the sisterhood," come to mind. You did it! You made it through nine months of what 95% (my number, no official poll) Americans can never even begin to comprehend. Not only did you do it, but you did it with grace, love, compassion and just a bit of snarkiness. I don't want to take away from what your man did, but I want you to know how incredibly proud of you I am. I know how hard it was for you...I've been there too. The wives are left home, taking care of the kids, house, car, bills, EVERYTHING while we wait. Waiting for the 10 minute phone call you get every two weeks (if you're lucky),waiting for the unmarked car to pull up in front of your house and soldiers in their dress uniforms to step out of it to give you the worst news you never want to hear. The spouses are the laminin of the military.

I'm sorry you all were separated; I praise God you all are together again. And I pray for all of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for our nation as they helped free an oppressed country from an evil we will never understand.

I guess I could have kept this shorter by simply stating, I am soooo happy for the two of you and the amazing children you've created together.

Nana said...

I'm so glad to hear that he is back safe. It was so good to see you the other month it makes me miss everyone so much! We are so thankfull for all the sacrifices your family has gone through even if we wish it wouldn't have to have happened! Thanks for your amazing words. I laugh I cry and always feel so moved by every word. Keep writing it's such an amazing talent.

Karen said...

There are no words to express my thanks for your family. Such sacrifice is worthy of so much more. I am thankful you are all reunited again and will continue to pray for the future.

Love to you all,
Karen

Nezzy said...

Howdy sweet family, I popped over here from Miss Sue's place. I'm just thrilled for you and your family. Ya'll sacrifice so much so we can live freely. Thanks you from the bottom of this Ozark farm chick's heart!

God bless ya'll from the very grateful hills and hollers of the Missouri Ponderosa!!!

Roger and LeAnn said...

Wow, thanks for sharing these thoughts. My husband and I had our daughter with four young girls live with us while her husband was in Iraq for a year. It was a very long year and we all learned alot about patience, love, sacrifice and other greath qualities. Mighty prayer was constant.
Perhaps you would like to look at a flag called the Title of Liberty. You can put it in a google search.
It has the exact reasons that Captain Moroni had when he went to war; check it out.
Also, I have a blog you might want to look at called Living Waters
Here's the Link: http://lgwilliams.blogspot.com.
Blessings and hugs to you all.

karen said...

This news put a crazy happy smile on my face. I've been thinking about you and wondering how you and your little band have been doing. I can see that life has taken a definite upswing. You have a beautiful family - thanks for the pictures. I really enjoyed reading this post and feeling your joy.

jendoop said...

Congrats on surviving and I'm so glad your husband returned safely. Thank you for your sacrifice!

Lanie said...

So glad he is home safely. And I wanted to tell him and your family thank you for your sacrifice that the rest of us tend to take for granted. ~Lanie J.

jen said...

My dear, dear friend:
It's strange, isn't it, how these cyber contraptions create bonds that become so strong. I've missed you, more than you can imagine. And what you've been posting since Jared's been gone veiled the difficulty of your situation.
I'm so glad he's home. I'm so glad he's safe. I'm so glad your kids won't have to miss him any more. I'm so glad he's back in your arms.
And mostly, I'm so sorry your family had to suffer like this.
You are one strong lady, and I hope we hear from you a little more often now.
Hugs to all.
And gratitude to Him that it's over for you guys.

Mumsy said...

I was just on Sue's blog and followed the link to your post. I am so glad that I did.

Bless you all! I am so thankful your husband made it back home and you all are getting back to your lives together.

Those who serve in the military and their families have a very special place in my heart and you all are always in my prayers.

Thank you and again God bless!!! Hugs

Krystyn said...

So glad he made it home safely. I don't know how spouses of those in the Services do it..I can't even imagine!

Bless you and your family.

Dixie Mom said...

That was such a beautiful way to write your experience. I'm so glad Jared is safely home. I know it was so hard on you and the kids. I never even realized how hard it was on him too. Those conditions...and the separation is so terrible.
I imagine the experience you have had is almost indescribable and almost...sacred.
I know I'm one grateful person for your sacrifice. And while I don't agree with this war and wish all who are serving there could just come home, I'm so thankful there are willing souls and go when the call is issued.
I am just so happy you are back together! You have no idea. I have worried and worried for a long time.

Em said...

sheesh, that quote is perfect.

it is so hard for me to imagine having to be without sean for that amount of time. i have so much respect for you and your family.

thank you.

My name is PJ. said...

I can't imagine what you've all bee through, but I'm sooooooo happy you've all been reunited!!!

Frosty said...

Natalie - I cannot begin to pretend that I *get* the emotions you endured. I can tell you his safe return is confirmation He hears our prayers. My sister was reading the post over my shoulder and said, "share my thanks with Natalie, her husband and her kids. Make sure they know we are grateful they served for us." I ditto her comments.

What a blessing to have your family back together. Hugs.

Caroline of Salsa Pie said...

I stopped by via a post from Sue of Sue's News Views and Muse. I am so happy your family is together again. This is a beautiful post...moving beyond measure.

God bless you and your family.

SnarkyMama said...

"TOGETHER" never looked so good! Beautiful post...again.
We are thankful.
Love you all.

Melanie said...

Great picture of your family. Your kids are beautiful and you look beautiful too.

So glad that y'all are back together and your husband is safe. Thank you to all the men and women who sacrifice for our freedom.

Nezzy said...

I just wanted to thank you for poppin' over with your sweet comment and prayers for Angel. Please drop in often, the door of the Ponderosa is always open.

God bless and have a super weekend sweetie!!!

Jess said...

So glad your captain is home safe and sound, I love the quote from Robert E. Lee- because it's too true and more people need to know it. Thank you, your whole family, for the sacrifice you've made.

Jessica said...

What a beautiful post. Thanks for providing the insight of the effects of war on those who fight it. I'm so glad your hubby made it home safe.

caitsmom said...

I can't imagine. Glad your family is together again in your home. Thanks for sharing your insights. Peace.

Our Family said...

Good news - Now the feeling. I have been reading your blog since I lost my sweet boy and found your blog. SO many parallels. Thank you for your words. Kappy