There are days that I ask–
Why did we allow our son to go so soon?
He can’t vote, can’t get a tattoo, can’t operate a meat slicer at a grocery store, can’t rent a car, can’t buy spray paint, can’t get a lottery ticket, can’t buy tobacco, can’t serve on a jury, book a hotel room, or get a Costco card. However, he can join the military (with parental consent) and fight for our country, maybe give his life for you and me, and for others who don’t love this country enough to deserve his sacrifice.
We could have said, “Not now. Maybe next year. Just. Not. Yet.” Yet we didn’t question or flinch, we just signed. My eyes welled up with tears on the day we gave permission to his recruiter who put papers in front of Eli and handed me the tissue box. We willingly betrothed him to his new dad, Uncle Sam, then went home, slightly considering that the inevitable wouldn’t happen any time soon. But let me say, the pride of his decision felt like fireworks going off in my stomach. I’d tell complete strangers at the grocery, “My son is shipping out next week,” and I’m certain they heard the fourth of July celebration I was having with myself.
However, the sucker punch didn’t come until a few months later when we waved good-bye at the American Airlines gate. He didn’t look back as he and a couple others sprinted towards the jet bridge. We were busy laughing with the other families about that impending buzz cut that we didn’t hear the gate agent call them to board. There were no last kisses or hugs—just the whirlwind of a few kids who looked like they were headed to the locker room after a Friday night win.
After we left the terminal, we sat in the car unsure of what to do next. Eli was headed to boot camp, end of question: no regrets, no turning back. No telling his new uncle we’d made a mistake. Right then and there, with a knot the size of Texas in my gut, I told myself we’d done the wrong thing.
But had we?
Part of me–oh so glad he went. He was going nowhere staying at home, messing around with the wrong kids, getting into trouble, jumping job to job. The other part? I couldn’t imagine my baby being the brunt of a drill sergeant who didn’t care what he said about this mama and other choice phrases I can’t share with my PG-rated friends.
Finally, when the three months of nervous fuzzies surrounding whether he’d survive boot camp were over, and when our son successfully earned the title of US Marine, my heart started to breath again. He did it. This was it. The crowning achievement of his entire 17 years. The only problem was I hadn’t thought of anything beyond graduation, his visit home for two weeks, hugging him tightly, and showing him off to my friends at church.
I hadn’t thought about our next good-bye or how difficult the real letting go would be.
Fast forward to ten months on the other side and everything has changed. He talks differently, careful of what he does and doesn’t tell me. He walks into a room differently, his head held high and shoulders square, which has added a couple inches to his previously lanky stature. Yet along with his perfect posture comes the reality that it’s only a matter of time until he deploys. Even though we aren’t in a time of war, the fact that he will be half way around the world in places where the political scenery changes on a daily basis has brought me to a new understanding and appreciation. Oh yeah, I can be heard belting out Courtesy of the Red, White and Blue with Toby Keith on most days, but in the middle of the night I’m begging God to watch over my kid since I’m not close enough to personally hold on to him with my bare hands.
I’m not in control any longer (as if I ever were). I’ve had to stop talking about letting go–biting my cuticles ’til they’re raw, overthinking where he could go, and all the ifs, ands and buts. I can’t track his phone, question how late he stayed out, or argue about what he does with his money. Those days are over. With the letting go comes a relief that I can’t do anything else except pray and trust God. Almost like it’s time to find a hammock on the beach somewhere and rest in the knowledge that in good and bad, battles and calm, God has Eli square in the palm of His hand. After all, he is a good Father who knows my thoughts, and knows my son, and loves us each so very much.
And so, my simple but difficult prayer has become:
God, he’s yours. Whatever he does, wherever he goes, let it all be for Your glory.
Amen. Amen. And Amen.
When I was deployed after 911, my leaders were not sure we would come back due to threats of anthrax, poison gas, and other lethal weapons. The streets were lined with soldiers and airmen saluting us as our van was leaving the base. I wondered: why all the attention; what do they know that I don’t; is this really “going down?” I looked at my troups trying to think of something to say but no words could address their feelings nor mine. It was then that I knew the only control I had was to stand on God’s word in Ps 91. “He surrounds me with his angels to guard me in all of my ways; etc.” At that moment fears went away and I was at peace. I recommend Ps 91! Confess it always. Jim Patterson
Wow. That hit me hard. There have been times Eli has texted, “Please pray for me,” and I realize how I can’t comprehend what anyone on the front lines goes through. It’s tough as a mom to just wonder and pray and plead. Yet I wouldn’t trade this for anything. Thank you for sharing what it’s really like out there…Psalm 91 is one of my favorites. Thank YOU for your service. And your beautiful words.
Beautiful and transparent words…. Kim, we too pray for Eli and all soldiers who defend our Freedom. To God be the Glory. He has us all in His hands and for that I am eternally grateful.
I love that comment regarding Psalm 91. I rest in that for mine and your kids.
Thank you, Denise! Love you, miss you and so appreciate those prayers. 🙂
I may have shed a tear or two. Letting go is hard, but wow, look at what itâ€™s brought to pass. â™¥ï¸
Amen. If you only knew the road to here!! Our kids, in the hands of our God…letting go to Him is the only way we’ll ever get through. Love you back.
THIS. IS. SO. POWERFUL. KEEP. WRITING
Thank you, my friend. You are the girl of a thousand compliments and I’m always touched by how you are able to encourage and love on people That is a gift. xo
This is beautiful and it hits home… my son is not in the military but heâ€™s in a area thatâ€™s far from home, ridden with crime. I pray hard everyday. Youâ€™re a brave mom, so full of faith. Iâ€™m certain that will get you through this time away from your baby boy.
Thank you for sharing and being so transparent. I think so many parents can agree that letting go is SO hard. After all, wasn’t it just yesterday that we were cutting up their food, bathing them, and taking them to the park? It goes by so fast! We have such a good Father who knows what our kids need more then we do. I’m excited to be able to get a small glimpse of how good our God is. I’m praying for you, sweet mama!!
Exactly!! I almost think the letting go is easier than feeling like I need to be the all encompassing, all knowing, all doing parent. Because I just wasn’t good at that. Now, in the letting go, I find such relief in the trusting God to do for our kids what we simply can’t. Thank you for your words. We should all be praying for each other!! Love you!
Your boys are a treasure. So many gifts and so much to do!! Your love for them shows through…and will get them through, no matter where they go. Love you.
Oh, I just cried, yep I did… And immediately thought again for the hundredth time how awesome it is that God sees our hearts, holds us close and has our kids, even when we don’t. Love you Kim, love your words.
It’s simply a reminder…because I need the reminder myself. If I didn’t let go, I think I’d curl up in a fetal position and bawl like a baby. And God knows I can’t do that. Letting go is such a process. I keep thinking, “I should have started this a lot sooner.” Ha. Thank you for reading. It means the world to me.
Wow. What a journey. I still remember Regi telling â€œEli stories â€œ at CC Choir rehearsals and thinking, â€œGod has a plan for a child with that much personality.â€ Honored that he serves our country in her most tenuous hour. Bless you and Regi for signing him into the hands of God that day when you thought you were giving him to the Government. His purpose for Eli will be fulfilled.
Thank you, Rick. Oh the Eli stories. We still laugh about them all the time. When I see pics of that freckle faced kid from back then and look at the man today. Wow. God was at work from day one…I will pass on your thanks. He’s an amazing Marine!
Beautiful way to describe a mommaâ€™s heart!
Thank you, Jenny. We mommas gotta stick together. Love you and praying for you and expecting that miracle of complete healing!!
Dear Kim….this could have been written by my son and daughter-in-law…My grandson left right after high school graduation at only 17…down to Texas for boot camp then to our dismay, after more training in Special Forces off to South Korea for a year. Leaving on the last plane allowed from there when all travel stopped….Now quarantined in another base close to home and unable to visit…almost two years now in the service and stalled at every step by this virus….praying that his dream will unfold and that the remaining four years will blossom as he had so hoped….thank you Kim…beautiful!
Semper Gumby as they tell us. If I let myself, Iâ€™d question every step, get frustrated and throw my hands up. But God tells me, â€œIâ€™m in control of it all!! Step back!â€ Itâ€™s never easy but worth every step. Thank you for sharing!
This is so true and exactly how I have felt the last 4 years. One day they depend on you for everything and then they are gone for 13 weeks with nothing but snail mail! From seeing ours leave for boot camp, leaving for his first deployment from the other side of the US and not being able to watch him go, to him calling and saying â€œIâ€™m getting marriedâ€ and giving us 3 weeks to plan a wedding on the opposite coast and get there for it! Itâ€™s been a crazy ride but we are in the home stretch as our Marine and his Navy bride are both getting their DD-214s this summer and we will have them home! Through all of it â€” I was thankful to know God was in control!! I am so grateful that God has kept him safe and that I KNOW God will continue to hold him as he joins the USMC Reserve unit!
Moms of kids in the military are a strong force. Itâ€™s something only those who know can grasp. Itâ€™s difficult but I wouldnâ€™t change a thing that got us here. Iâ€™m so proud for you and your kids. What a coming home party youâ€™ll be having soon!! Semper Fi!!
This was so poignant and powerful, filled with enormous faith, beautifully written by a strong (whether you believe it or not) woman of God.
Thank you, Becky. Looking back, i realize that those of us who survive could only do it with Godâ€™s strength. Lord knows I couldnâ€™t do any of this on my own !!