One of the sweetest, most kindhearted women I know has had a stroke. She’s reported, at this moment, to be recovering, but will have to learn how to walk again.
She is the mother of a U.S. Marine. She has also been present numerous times to enthusiastically greet Marines graduating from boot camp and those returning from deployments from around the world, including Iraq and Afghanistan. In between hug-fests she assists her husband with his business and cheers on the likes of people like me.
I just don’t understand. In the great flow of life, surely a few must fall – and do. But I will never understand why the fickle hand of fate would descend upon someone like her. I suppose in the great scheme of things she’s not terribly special, but she is to me – and I know she is to countless others who have been on the receiving end of her unconditional hugging, her smile that really does light up a room, and her sassy but excruciatingly polite demeanor.
I had the privilege of lunching with this woman and other Marine moms in the short time my family lived outside the gate of Camp Pendleton, California. I’d known of her, and then got to know her, through Marine Moms Online (MMO) while we lived at Camp Lejeune, North Carolina. MMO is an online forum for Marine parents that I joined to (I now choke on my own arrogance) assist and inform new Marine parents as they were indoctrinated into the family that is the United States Armed Services’ smallest branch.
I did help here and there, but mostly I’m the one who has been helped and assisted. I joined MMO as a Staff NCO spouse. I dutifully and sometimes humorously typed up tidbits and safety tips, coping skills and anecdotes. I was well received, but had no idea that as time went by I would emerge from the threads as the enlightened one because of their responses to me, not mine to them.
MMO is comprised mostly of those who are older than I, many of whom have never left their hometown. Imagine my surprise, then, when this well-traveled mom of teenagers who thought she knew a thing or two met up with some of the most understanding, intelligent, compassionate, civic-minded people I’ve ever gotten to know.
When my husband went from “I’m leaving for Iraq soon” to gone in less than a week, they – many of whom knew little or nothing about deployments, much less war – helped me and my children. Who could pass up the chance to lunch with such lovelies? And is it any wonder that these are the people who raised the Few and the Proud?
I have a long-developed skill of illusion that allows me to completely ignore the number of miles between me and those I love. I fill the space between us with all manner of tools and technology: letters, gifts, phone, email, Internet forums and social networking sites, and planes. When something like this happens, my illusion of connection is busted wide open, and I am painfully aware of just how far away I really am.
It’s not that I could do anything to help this woman, who, upon meeting me, greeted me as if I were her own child; it’s that she was there for me, and I want to be there for her in whatever way she might need – or just want. I hope the very best for her and her family, and I can only hope – from this distance – that it is enough.