I have shared how I felt when I woke up in Walter Reed, and touched on what my recovery was like. I asked someone who spent every day by my side to share what she saw, felt, and went through in that time, because for many, that perspective isn’t shared. We hear about the spouses, but seldom the Parents, and what they go through. I asked my mom to share her story.
Fair warning, for commenters—This is my mother. Be polite and respectful. Otherwise I will find you, break your legs, nail your tongue into your nostril, and cut your fingers off with tin snips. That isn’t hyperbole or allegory.
This is Part one.
Faith does not believe God can, it KNOWS He Will.
Six years ago, when the call came… and my Daughter in law’s first word was “MOM” and not the “Hey what are you doing?” cheerful voice I am used to, I took a deep breath. Then she gave me the details that went along with her first statement which was, “Chuck has been injured and is on his way to Walter Reed.”
I wish I could say something dramatic like my heart stopped and time seemed like it was frozen, but instead, my brain leapt into an action plan to move, make arrangements, and take care of family Now! When I hung up the phone I said, “I’ve got to go now” and explained to my daughter what was happening. For me there was no hesitation, no pause to stop and get control. My focus just switched from what I was doing to where I needed to be. It was time to pack a bag and go. As a mom who has three military members who have chosen jobs in the service of their country that require them to be on the front lines, there is always a bag in my room half packed with the essentials that I can pick-up and go.
Upon my departure for Walter Reed Army Medical Center, my daughter—a medic in the US Air Force who also has seen the horrors of war—wanted to prepare me with some extremely insightful advice. She said “war produces sights that I have never seen before in my medical career. Flesh will not look like flesh, wounds can be staggering at first sight, and battered bodies can be dreadfully distressing to the inexperienced eye.” She gave me a hug and whispered, “Mom, prepare yourself.” I took her advice knowing I had to be strong for both my son and daughter in love in the weeks, months, and lifetime ahead.
Arriving at Chuck’s bedside and meeting his Soldier’s Angel put my heart at ease, knowing my simple prayer to have God send someone to watch over him until Carren and I arrived had been answered. It is now, and was then, amazing to me how all I saw was my son: my son, the baby, the boy, the young adult, the man, my son. I did not see the wrapped hands, the swollen face with bird-shot like shrapnel embedded in it, or the massive wounds beneath the sheets. The other injuries were explained later, but for the moment there lay my son and I was relieved to see him and watch over him. I stood close to Carren, not knowing how this moment would affect her. She was awesome—she kissed his wounded lips and laid her head on his chest to reassure him of her love and presence. My heart gently smiled.
The following first days were tedious and worrisome. I had an advantage upon my arrival in DC. I had spent several years roaming the halls of Walter Reed Army Medical Center with my husband. He gave his life in for his country, passing away in March of 2000 from the Viet Nam-era cancer, Non Hodgkin’s Lymphoma, which was caused by Agent Orange exposure. God walked me through the years he spent ill. Bill showed our whole family how to eat an elephant, and return for the leftovers. On his grave marker at the Pacific National Cemetery (Punchbowl) Hawaii, it says “He never gave up”. I know where my son gets his steadfast spirit.
I could tell you as he improved daily we were relieved by his recovery. I could see from the start the multiple surgeries done on his legs and hands increasingly took their toll. Imagine one moment you head tells you you’re in Iraq, then you open your eyes to severe pain, close your eyes and severe pain strafes you once more.
...To be continued