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Holding our breath…again

It has been 15 months since my nephew arrived home from a one-year tour of duty in Iraq. Tomorrow his brother leaves for a nine-month stint in Afghanistan. I have three sisters, no brothers. And among us we have 10 sons, no daughters. And our closest experience to family in the military was our father who served in WWII. We are not accustomed to these vigils of worry with our children living in such violent circumstances.

 The Peace Corps had a slogan a few years ago: “The Peace Corps: the toughest job you’ll ever love.” I knew the first time I heard it, that it was not written by a parent. Every mom knows that parenting is the toughest job you’ll ever love. And that tough part is not the diapers, the colic, the endless responsibility or even the teen years. It is the letting go.

 To raise a child, to love them more than you love your own life and then to step aside as they make their own choices, is tough.  We cannot save them from emotional or physical hurt. We cannot live their lives for them; we cannot protect them when life throws them deep grief and loss. We can simply bear witness to their journey, their choices. 

On the phone this morning, we chatted, that nephew and I, that 30-year-old man who has chosen to serve his country through the US military. This man who is just as he was a child: kind and gentle and thoughtful. I promised to call his mom often. I promised prayers without ceasing and regular care packages of whatever he wants. And I will end each message as I always have: “Brad, sending you all my love and Aunty Cathy kisses!” I didn’t cry until he hung up. 

The countdown to our reunion begins…

(S-R archives photo)

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About this blog

Writer Catherine Johnston of Olympia, Wash., addresses issues facing aging baby boomers and seniors as well as issues of serious illness, death and dying, grief and loss.

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