There are people who come into life with missions greater than expected.
Someone you might cross paths with for a moment, an hour, a day…maybe longer.
And no matter the mission…no matter how great or small, a change is made. A quantum leap of value added to a priceless slice of life.
An investment from another that multiplies exponentially for the rest of your life. A rare relationship that forms in the light of happenstance…whether good or bad. Yet, there is nothing happenstance about it, really. No luck, or coincidence. Long, long before any thought of the matter…the plan is made for a relationship bound by destiny.
Some say fate. Some say chance. I say only one word. Predestined. Better yet, Ordained.
If you’re really savvy enough…keenly aware of the need…you’ll have eyes to see and a heart split wide open to understand.
While packing to leave home and fly to my son, I received a phone call that I left unanswered. Too busy. Too frenzied. Too focused. Later I would listen to a voice recording of a soldier. Politely introducing himself. Offering to pick me up when I arrived at the airport near the base of Fort Hood.
I thought that the offer was so very, very kind…but no, thank you. I had family on the other side ready to retrieve me. Thank you, though. I texted a decline.
And you have to understand. I’ve learned over these five decades of life that I can be pretty independent. I don’t like to need anyone. For much of anything.
Little did I know that ahead of me was not simply my situation alone. The wheels of motion were set in place by an organization that had detailed experience with incidents like this. The Military. Greater still — The United States Army.
Structure is their key, and though I was unaware, I would find out later that I was not alone. Never. Not one single step.
I cannot remember which day…day one, or two…that I met him. Coming through the door of my son’s hospital room, dressed in Army fatigues, folded hat in hand. A sweet, kind, and gentle looking man who was no older than my son. To me, he seemed like a boy…but I know that was far, far from true. I would come to discover that standing before me was a man with the greatest honor and integrity of any human being I had yet to encounter. Someone of priceless character. Stepping over that threshold was a soldier with the highest of intent.
He was there to hold me up. No matter the cost.
As he told me his name, it sounded so familiar and then dawned on me…yes! Yes. You called, didn’t you? Thank you for your offer. How kind.
I can tell you that on that day I still didn’t understand and still couldn’t make out the words.
I’m here to help you. Whatever you need. I will drive you anywhere. Do anything. Just call. Just ask.
And then…I know your son. He is part of my unit.
OH! I was surprised at how struck I was by that idea. Suddenly I felt a connection that I did not expect. This soldier knew things about my son that I would never know. In another environment. Another part of my son’s story. He saw him in uniform and in the performing of duties and the interaction of things far beyond my scope of knowing. Another area of mystery.
Because no one I know is more independent — and as sans needy as I am — than my son. He rarely discussed his work with me. Rarely told me of any accomplishment or any kind of promotion. Once in awhile, but rare.
More than a few times, though, he would tell me (in those rare and priceless discussions that I would get lost and caught up in because they were so precious to me) about how little I would ever, ever understand about the loyalty of the Army. The Brotherhood.
Mom, you could never understand it. Never.
It wasn’t a negative Never…no, not like that. It was not that he was trying to correct me or put me in my place…it was that this connection he tried to relay to me was something that could only be experienced. Something more valuable than words could ever describe. It had to be lived.
The Brotherhood was Unique and Inexplicable. Honorable. Exclusive.
All I could ever respond was yes, son. I know. I have no idea. I could never understand.
The soldier visiting me that day offered his time. His help. His attention to anything I needed.
Before he left the room, he asked one last time if I needed anything…he meant anything. I could only say in return…
Yes. I do. I need a miracle.
At that his eyes softened…he looked down some…then over to my son. Yes. I understand. I would do that if I could.
And every single day he would show up. Faithful and true. Often twice a day. To check in to see if I had needs or wants or questions…anything. He gave me his time and his attention and it came to be that I looked forward to his visits. He brought structure and security and a sense of continuity.
Many soldiers would visit. Some active military, some retired. Of all ranks and honor. All coming to stand beside us and if even a few minutes…stand guard. They came to watch over us and with what they had to offer…add to our protection. Each soldier explaining his or her role in my son’s life and how each served alongside him. Some days so many came…with their titles and their associations and their offers to help. If I needed them. Just say the word. Just call. Please don’t hesitate to call.
But none would compare the one I came to affectionately call My Own Personal Soldier. Who I later found took on the assignment himself. Requested it. All along he kept his word. Visited every day.
And on a day I did need his help…a drive to the airport to pick up a family member…he came without question. Arrived a bit early, knowing I had not been out, and took me for a cheeseburger first. During our conversation I realized that it was a Sunday. A family day! Not only that…it was Father’s Day. How could I have not connected those dots?
Yet he willfully and graciously gave me hours of a day that should have been spent with his wife and children. He sacrificed precious time. He gave and served selflessly.
Once the reality of it all fell over me, I cannot tell you how moved I was. I wish I had the words here…but I don’t. I am still in awe of it all just now. I don’t know anyone who would have served me that well. Ever.
With heightened senses, I watched as it all came to be. I saw it all wind within, and around, and knit together. Sew up.
Because there’s nothing like relationships formed in the midst of a tragedy. Nothing like it at all.
With watchful and eagle sharp lens one begins to sift out who is for and who is against…in any way. Become keenly aware who is friend and who is foe. Who will stand by to the bitter and painful end and who will not. The strong that step up and show themselves worthy. Hear the call and answer without an ounce of self servitude.
Over the hours and days I began to see with the greatest of clarity. I was being initiated into a world that only a few could fathom.
I could now tell my son that I have an idea. Yes, I do. I get now what he tried to tell me so many times over.
Son! I am so proud of you. And I know you’d be so proud of the soldiers around you.
For they gently marched right in…held us up…and within this mission in a very profound and powerful way they included me.
I now know, son. I now know.
That loyalty you told me about? The honor and the pride?
I am forever changed by it. I am.
You would be proud of me because now in my own way and with my own eyes, I see.
What that sacred Brotherhood is all about.
Yes, son, I now understand.