I. Silent Love
One Sunday morning I received a call to travel to the east side of town for a death call as a Hospice Chaplain. When I arrived I was escorted to the Master bedroom of a quaint small ranch style home. The Mortician was there and waiting in the hallway.† I worked my way past family and friends and turned the corner into the bedroom to view a young man probably ten or so hugging his now deceased mother. He had climbed into the bed with her and she died sitting upright with a pillow behind her back. I set my prayer book down on the edge of the bed and sat next to her son. We chatted for a few minutes I anointed her with sacramental oil laid hands on her head recited a prayer and then I asked him if he was hungry. He replied yes and I said letís go to the kitchen as these people need to have access to your mom. He nodded in approval kissed her and moved one arm then the other from around her neck and her thirty year young body and left the room.
I moved to block his view as the representatives of the funeral home after placing her in a bag carried her around the narrow corners of the hallways and out the front door to their waiting van. He was now seated in the corner of the kitchen eating a bowl of cereal and deep in his thoughts about losing the best friend in life while not yet in sixth grade.
We recently read about a mother who was arrested for providing a fake Connecticut address so that her son could be admitted to a better quality school. She had copies of his grades and knew by his attitude that he might just ďmake itĒ† in the more prestigious district but her plans were eventually foiled after but one semester; the rule makers stepped in and now she must find another way around or through the system for her son to have a chance for a better life.
In Florida a Mother made her son stand on the street corner wearing signage regarding skipping school or low grades. Her love and reasoning that a few moments of shame which she would share with him in his young life may motivate him to break the hereditary cycle of mediocrity and scorn for those success seekers aspiring to the greater good as defined by their family of origin or learned via external or spiritual experiences.
In Ciudad Juarez a father calls his wife and mother of their two children on her cell phone and explains that some men in two trucks have followed their daughter from their home and may seek to kidnap her for ransom or worse. The mother calls the daughter and they make plans to rendezvous at a specific shopping mall just off a common intersection. The daughter arrives and jumps into her Motherís car abandoning her own vehicle. They†† cross the border into El Paso arriving at the home of relatives never to return to Mexico leaving behind their lifelong network of family and friends. Her husband joins her with several pick up trucks of their earthly belongings and they with their daughter and son now reside in a small two bedroom apartment as undocumented but happy that their family remains united and safe in this their sanctuary country: The United States of America.
We salute the motherís who silently endure the repetitive failures of their husbands for the sake of maintaining family unity; their support unconditional their faith unwavering and the mothers who welcome their children back from war whether whole, maimed, disabled, or in a flag draped casket. They and their children have made the greatest sacrifice of all.
While shopping one day in Samís Club on Spring Mountain and Decatur in Las Vegas I met a woman who became an instant friend. Her name was Faria and she was an Iranian American and a naturalized citizen. She spoke fluent English and Farsi. After a few intermittent shopping days of pushing my flat around I had learned through the culmination of a series of mini conversations some where she was pretending to work while deep into one conveyance or other regarding her family and that she was previously married to a University Professor though they now divorced had parented two children, a daughter who continued to suffer from an eating disorder and a son who had joined the military.
Faria joined us for one of our dinners and open group meetings. Though she never came back she was most affirming of our group and our efforts in the community. One day we were watching the news and learned that a Navy Seal had been killed in a friendly fire training exercise. The reporting then included a brief video of the grieving mother. It was Faria. We learned of the date and time of the vigil and arrived that evening to a mortuary packed with civilians, Naval Officers, enlisted men and one Marine. Once the congregation was seated a number of Officers and enlisted men eulogized their brother and eventually Faria stepped forward and shared her feelings of pride in the career path selected by her son.
The pain of his loss was searing but Faria maintained her poise and was welcomed afterwards by a group of mothers and widows who now organized as a support group borne from the death of a husband, son or daughter in military accidents, training or conflict now rallying around a common cause which deflected their grief; the support of those that would come after them and for whom they could gaze into their eyes and say:† ďI know how you must feel but it will get betterĒ† and remain credible.
We talked to her afterwards but she remained reclusive, however she returned to work quickly and was complimentary of her employer Samís Club as to how they accommodated her situation.
II. Army Wives
We have almost always lived near an Air Force Base as long as I can remember whether Kirtland in Albuquerque, Whiteman Southeast of Kansas City, Luke Northwest of Phoenix or Nellis adjacent to North Las Vegas. My eldest sister served in the Army and I visited her at Fort Ord outside of Monterey, California and Kaiserslautern, in Germany. But I never had the opportunity to view an Army Base as massive as Ft. Bliss in East El Paso, Texas. We had heard that Ft. Bliss was the second largest Army Base in the United States and continues to expand with returning troops from both Iraq and Afghanistan and allegedly complimenting its enormity with an additional armor division. Is the build up a response to the continued violence and instability just a few short miles away in Juarez or a base complimenting the growth and stability of El Paso County?
Many soldiers and their families live on base but others prefer the suburban sprawl of a metropolitan area including Las Cruces, El Paso and Juarez as the third largest in the United States via population just behind Los Angeles County; eclipsing Chicago, Houston and Philadelphia. We have had the opportunity to meet both soldiers their wives and in some cases infant children. They arrive from Germany, Iraq, Afghanistan, Korea and everywhere else and about six months later their furniture is delivered in large shipping crates as do their vehicles from previous duty stations like Germany. Sometimes they live in other peopleís homes for months until theyíre reunited with their personal effects. One family moved in and the wives tracked down kittens born outside in the woods and dispersed the pride to welcoming homes or kept the babies.
Another wife Karla arrived with her husband and newborn baby from Kentucky. Last summer she was spending time at the community pool with special arm floats for her infant son. This year she bought him a miniature life vest for their pool hour each day. Karla is now packing the house alone as her husband is either in training at the base or drinking at nights with his friends. Sometimes while walking the dogs around the neighborhood I would bump into Karla who was starved for conversation. We would converse or she would chat and I would listen. I thought to myself that she is almost always at home and alone with the baby and it must at times drive her out of her mind. Karla recently informed me that they are transferring to Pennsylvania. She canít wait to leave the desert brown of the great southwest. The Southwest isnít for everyone. Karla made friends with other Army wives but within a few months one leaves as does another replaced by new acquaintances and soon to be friends.
Itís one of the hardest lifestyles I have ever witnessed as the troops return home to family and friends and the army wife who is there to greet him and after all the accolades dissipate she remains to pick up the pieces and accept the physical limitations, the mental anguish, night sweats, and benders seeking a pause from the horrors of lingering memories and voices of dead people speaking with the clairvoyance and sense of purpose of a fellow traveler.
Rare Earth-The Best of-1995. 2.1 Page 1