As I sat around the dining room table today with my family, just after blessing the meal, my dad asks for a moment of silence for those who have fallen.
This was absolutely not a quiet moment, as my children have never experienced “silence”, especially not on purpose. So they proceeded to screech and make other inappropriate noises as I gave them The Mom Eyes and whispered for them to be very quiet or else you can leave the table right this second. The moment ended, and as I looked around the table, the eyes of the soldiers at the table were ringed with red.
We all look at the world through our own eyes, through our perspectives. We tend to have empathy where we can see it, feel it, understand it. Therefore, I have thus far looked at Memorial Day through the eyes of a wife. It breaks my heart to think of what they go through, from the moment that the one they love most in the world is cut off from them, to when the soldier arrives at their door with a somber knock. I think they must know, the moment they open that door. Then to carry on, through the first weeks, being unable to fathom what life could possibly look like without your pillar of strength, walking your children through the explanations and the well wishers. Life is never the same.
Today I saw Memorial Day through the eyes of a soldier, for just a brief moment. These men and women who leave us, and experience things that we can only picture and imagine, as from this side of the world we skype and email, cook spaghetti and take the kids to playgroups, talking on the phone with our soldiers at odd times of the day. We count the days, we pray, we wait.
For the soldiers, it is a complete culture shift. They work with people from other countries, live in unusual conditions, carry weapons with them, literally watchful and alert at all times. Alarms wake them in the middle of the night, warning them to seek shelter from potential attack. They hear the horrific details of deaths of the men and women they know, maybe someone they had lunch with. Maybe someone they were standing right next to. Not every death is from enemy fire. Some of the worst ones I heard about were just accidents.
But now, here they sit, surrounded by their families, eating burgers and chips, while they know by name and face, good men and women who didn’t come home. How that must be a weight on them, I think. I wonder if they feel guilty that they get to be with their families while others don’t. I will never know, because I have never experienced that. To see that emotion, ever how brief, cross the faces of these strong men I love, that was Memorial Day for me. To remember those who have fallen.