Last month on our family vacation, I watched my daughter splash in the pool with her daddy, feel the breeze in her hair and the sun on her back, go on her first of many bike rides (in a buggy) and taste her very first ice cream cone, laughing as she winced at the cold cream, watching it dribble down her sticky chin.
As we arrived at the airport, somber because our trip was over, we saw something that sobered up our sadness fast.
A military mom saying goodbye to her family.
In an almost catatonic state, I looked on as my husband asked me questions, my daughter said my name. I, unknowingly somewhat mesmerized, tuned out the sounds of my family to observe hers.
With a feeling of both privilege, for witnessing such a beautiful -- albeit devastating -- moment, and perversion, for infringing on their time, I stared as she looked each in the eyes, whispered a few words and pulled them tight. Tighter than an average goodbye. Tighter than one who takes their future for granted.
As she wiped tears from her eyes, new tears flooded mine.
I read about soldiers departing, hear about families ripped apart, see photos of the actual moment -- but witnessing a goodbye in person with a military mother and her child... there are no words.
This woman will not get endless summer days with her family, won't witness firsts, seconds, thirds. She'll have to get by on snapshots and stories, memories and dreams.
Her kids will have to go without a (present) mother for an immeasurable amount of time, her husband a wife, her parents a daughter. All to protect other kids, husbands and parents. People she's never met, names she doesn't know. Her family sacrifices for ours.
We pay a lot for our freedom. A lot.
So when you're b*tching about the bug bites or the cold you caught this holiday, the humidity, heat, the lotioning up or spraying down of fussy little ones, the disciplining of bigger ones or the end of vacation, remember those who are fighting this very moment for our ability to do so. Those who are missing the mess, the arguments, the get-togethers, reunions, trips... Those who are longing for home and the faces that inhabit it. Those who are saying goodbye. To not only their summer, but their life. All packaged up in one airport picture.
Think about our soldiers. And their families. And be thankful.
Happy 4th of July to all who celebrate, both home and overseas. Those with their loved ones and those without. Those dreaming about a better tomorrow and those fighting for it.
For all who sacrifice, we thank you.