The first few of those Hotel Days were filled with I don’t remember what.
I know we tried to make the best of it.
I know that I was feeling pretty tired.
Like in dead dog tired.
My cell phone kept ringing with requests. At one point I simply handed it over to my husband and told him that I would only take calls from a chosen few. And if this or that one should call…please talk to them for me.
It was all becoming way, way too overwhelming.
Remember those five days of waiting until my son would be buried?
Well, that somehow turned into seven. Seems like there was one reason or another. Plus the fact that a weekend was thrown in there. The Army shuts down over the weekend.
Seven days! Of waiting. More waiting.
Something came over me and I started to melt down. I was in this hotel with family and we were all in unfamiliar territory. There were hours and hours to occupy. And there were these ideas that we should go to this place or go to that. Seriously, I was not there on vacation.
This was not a holiday.
What I wanted to do…what I really, really THOUGHT I wanted was to go home. There was a day there that all I wanted was the familiarity of my own home. So I said it out loud.
I want to go home!
In my delirium I had decided it was all I wanted to do.
I can’t even tell you if I was serious or not. I know that it caused some concern. Because before I knew it, word about it spread quickly.
I wanted to talk to someone who could tell me the truth. I wanted to know exactly why it was taking so long. What was the next step? Why should I wait?
So on that day, I retrieved my phone from my husband and texted my trusted and former Own Personal Soldier.
Can we meet? I need to talk to you.
Of course, he replied. I will be right there.
I remember how he told me so often during those Hospital Days. If you need me for anything…anything, I will be there.
He was. Always.
We met up in that little office in the extended stay lobby. Sat face to face in those exact same desk chairs with wheels that I sat a day or two before with my current CAO. The chairs that reminded me that I was still spinning.
Now, I hear that you are thinking about going home, were his first words to me. I want you to reconsider. I know this is difficult. This is how the Army operates. This is how it goes. There is nothing that can be changed.
I know there is some conversation to be inserted here. More words of details and logistics and protocol.
I tuned most of them all out.
But the following words were some of the most valiant I have ever heard. They stepped right up, shook me by the shoulders, and changed everything for me.
I have decided to take on the role of your son’s Escort.
Silence. Heart skipped a beat in my chest.
Escort? What does that mean, exactly?
I have chosen to follow Michael from his death on. He will go nowhere without my knowing. He will go nowhere without me there beside him. He won’t leave the hospital without me. He will not be alone.
I will choose his clothing down to his boots. And I promise you, he will look amazing. Perfect. I will make sure of that.
But most of all, know that your boy will not be alone. Wherever he goes, I go. All the way to the grave site.
He then explained that he spent an entire day in class to be qualified for this. To be my son’s Escort.
Let me tell you. I mean, how can I tell you?
There was nothing on this entire earth that would have meant more to me just then. Nothing.
I sat there pretty speechless. Awestruck, really.
He told me then of a special ceremony. A military memorial. A special memorial service set up by Michael’s unit. He asked me to attend.
In fact, you don’t want to miss it. Please stay. Come to the memorial. Wait this out. You will not regret it.
So there I sat, rectified. In that chair with 360 degree wheels under that copper framed penny with the U shaped message above Abe Lincoln’s head. Remember? The message that says “In God We Trust”?
How could I deny this? How could I have been so selfish? So childish?
At that very moment it all fell over me.
The realization washed over me and cleansed me of my stupidity.
I was wide awake then.
There are reasons why our country is so great. Reasons why we salute the flag and recite the pledge. Stand straight and tall when we hear the National Anthem play.
Put our hands over our hearts and mean it.
Not because of major and fabulous things. Not so much for the wars and the glorious speeches of popular leaders and our purple mountains majesty.
Not so much because we are free to vote or free to protest. Not so much because we can speak our minds or live just about any way we wish.
No, those things just make us feel entitled.
It’s these invisible things.
It’s all these things going on behind the scenes.
All of these things we rarely get to see up close and personal.
The honorable things.
One person holding up another. Stepping up and standing guard.
That’s the fabric of it. No…that’s the thread that holds the fabric together.
One precious stitch at a time.
This Own Personal Soldier of mine…he was representing this whole thing with the greatest of honor, dignity, and integrity. Like none other.
I could do the same.