This is going to be an extremely personal blog. The one I’m terrified to share, but I need to. It’s healing to share and to get this out in the open.
Almost seven years ago my husband deployed to Iraq. It was June 6th, or 7th I believe, of 2007. That was the last time I ever saw him again. The picture, shown above, is the last time that man ever held our son. That was quite literally seconds before he disappeared on one of the many white buses that took him away to battle. I thought I would only have to survive a year without him, but seven years later I’m here, and he’s not. No- he wasn’t killed in action, and no he wasn’t injured physically. But he was taken. The very man that my husband was disappeared that day and who he was upon homecoming was a complete mystery to me.
It’s taken many years to see the toll that war has taken on my husband, but the further away we get from it the more evident the scars and wounds become. The brilliant man that never forgot a thing all of the sudden can’t remember to brush his teeth in the morning. It’s become second nature to remind him on his way out the door. Almost everytime I ask, he rushes to the bathroom. This is the very same man that, before war, brushed and flossed religiously. He was so uptight about his oral hygiene his Mom even send floss in his care packages. She sent so much floss, we used up the last one just last year. Now though, I remind him to brush his teeth.
The man that was awake and cheerful at 4:30 am now rolls out of bed just to sit on the chair for an hour- and usually he falls asleep holding his coffee, and it spills all over the carpet. There is a permanent stain from all the reoccurring spills.
The emotional, not afraid to cry husband is now someone that just blinks over and over again when faced with emotion. No tears, no words, just blinking. Sometimes I wait for over an hour to get a response out of him, but usually, there is no response.
The Dad I expected my kids to have, he died a long time ago. Don’t get me wrong, he’s a wonderful father and loves his children but the Dad he was before war was different. I find I grieve the loss of those traits more then any other. I miss the man that taught Sunday School and had all the kids at church looking up to him. I miss the silly side of him that made any child giggle. I miss the passion he had for Jesus. I’m sure it’s in him somewhere, but I miss seeing it.
The first month my husband deployed I had a dream over and over again that I couldn’t find him. I would call and call, and he wouldn’t answer his phone. I would look, I would drive around, and he was nowhere. Sometimes the dreams were nightmarish, and sometimes they were just weird- but I always woke up in a sweat. Seven years later I still have those dreams, but they are almost always nightmares. He never dies, but I can’t ever find him. He’s gone. In these dreams I’m desperately searching for him, begging whoever knows him to remind him of the kids and I., I have these dreams almost weekly, nd most of the time it takes an entire day to recover. I don’t think I’ll ever get use to them.
We always hear about the trauma soldiers face and see the dramatic ways in which they try to cope- drinking, drugs, and sadly suicide. But we rarely hear about the small ways these soldiers change and how the loss of who they were can feel a death. We never hear about how the soldier that read his bible everyday and couldn’t ever stop reading it now hardly picks it up. We don’t hear about how these men can’t enter a room without looking above for snipers. We don’t hear about how all these subtle changes effect the wives, and children. We don’t hear about the ones that are good at suppressing their trauma. We don’t hear about the soldiers that function relatively well to the untrained eye, but to the wife and kids it’s like a dam about to burst. Water leaks from the cracks and you take a deep breath in to prepare, only years go by like this because these soldiers are strong. But you know, eventually, the dam will break. You try to patch up all the leaks, you go to great lengths to do anything you can to keep the leader of your family together and in one piece. You love him and need him.
People that don’t understand war and the toll it takes on a person can’t possibly understand. Not one person can come home from war unscarred. There are wounds, some are easy to see and most are terribly difficult to see. But they are there. But you know, they are alive so you’re thankful. You’ll take the new husband because he has a beating heart and you adore him- even the new him. Then you’ll feel guilty for missing the man you married. You feel bad for complaining. You’ll wonder what he saw, what he experienced. You’ll wonder what it was that finally did it- what was it that took him? Was it the soldier that lost half his body? Was it the children that lost heads? Was it the seven friends that were ambushed and died? Was it cleaning up their bodies? Was it that he survived and they didn’t? Was it all the death? Was it the separation from love and life? Was it living in hell for almost three years? What? What or who took your husband?! You daydream about going to hell and bringing him back. You’re desperate.
All these thoughts and desires are futile so keep patching those leaks and holes. You pray, HARD. You love, unconditionally. You serve. You laugh despite it all and you both carry on- and relatively happy too! But then there are the moments you both can’t ignore the obvious- you see the damage and you mourn and weep together. Stupid stupid war. It’s evil. This hate for evil though is a common ground and because of the love you have for God and eachother you fight together against all the evil. Then there are glimmers of hope, of clarity and you think that perhaps he’s coming back. Doctors see what you see, HE see’s what you’ve seen all along and you praise God!!! NO more band aides, no more patching the leaks but real healing comes and the leaks stop. You slowly start to feel like you can exhale and the sun starts shining and peaking through the dark clouds. You take out that loan for the business you’ve always wanted to start. Before you know it, life abounds and grows and you see a glimmer of the man he was. He’s new too, but it’s still him. You want to finally leap into his arms and look in his eyes, is it really him?! How you’ve missed him! You put your hands on his cheeks and just stare to take him in…
This is what the past seven years has been like. But repeated over and over. Two steps forward, a few back…more forward…a few back…but progress is made and hope is restored. You rest on God and what you know- He restores all that is lost.
The passage that has been my pillar during this time has been Joel 2:24-26, “…The threshing floors will be full of grain, And the vats will overflow with the new wine and oil. Then I will make up to you for the years that the swarming locust has eaten, the creeping locust, the stripping locust and the gnawing locust, My great army which I sent among you. You will have plenty to eat and be satisfied And praise the name of the LORD your God, Who has dealt wondrously with you; Then My people will never be put to shame.…”
Levi- I love you endlessly. The strength you’ve shown, and your fight to win against war melts my heart. You are my hero of all hero’s and I adore everything you are!