It wasn’t supposed to happen. He was supposed to make it through surgery and be back home tomorrow.
But the phone call changed all that. “His vitals began to slip and we tried everything and there was nothing we could do….”
And in a heartbeat my dog Elway – my companion, the gentle being who loved us unconditionally – was gone. For years he was our only child, yet when our daughter came he embraced her too. He endured haircuts and horseback rides and fingers in the eye without a whimper or snarl.
The call hit my wife and me like a brick.
I couldn’t make sense of it all. He was too young. Too strong. He was a magnificent creature with so much life left in him.
Then somewhere along the way I began to think of the 30 Americans who went down in Afghanistan on Saturday. They were young and strong too. Their families got calls, but the news was infinitely more devastating. They had so much left to give, but their lives were cut short.
What does a family do when the Casualty Affairs Calls Officer knocks on the door? I cannot imagine the anguish, the overwhelming wish for a do-over. One more chance to say goodbye.
At least I had that.
They died serving their country. They died as warriors. They were far from home, but were still cradled in the hearts of those who waited for them there.
How do you make sense of it all?
Maybe we don’t have to. Maybe we just take comfort in knowing they were part of something bigger. Something honorable. Something important.
That doesn’t make the sting any less for their families left behind. But even in their darkest hours they must know that they will be embraced as part of the enduring circle of military families who mourn along with them.
And as time passes, I hope the pain fades away and is replaced by memories of happy times.
Until then we must accept the sadness and move on. That’s what they would have done.
And that’s what I’ll do too.