Saturday, February 6, 2010
GRACIE, THE SOLDIERS' ANGEL
Andrea, the wife of a soldier, with a serious non-combat related medical issue, and I often sit and talk. Hers is the first voice I hear as we enter the courtyard of the Fisher House at Brooke Army Medical Center, “Gracie! Gracie is here!” We hug a sincere hug. I feel like we are long time friends. I have met their three children when they flew in for a visit. I have met his parents and hugged them as they left to return to Wisconsin to be temporary parents for their grandchildren.
Andrea will tell me which amputee had the worst week and celebrate with the successes of others. She is kind, compassionate, and often babysitter to wounded soldier’s children, whether dozing on the sofa with another army wife’s baby on her lap watching television, or bottle feeding a baby when the mother is simply too exhausted from taking care of her injured husband.
Lucy, the wife of an amputee finds great solace in Gracie’s presence. “Gracie is blind and here she is doing all she can to cheer everyone else.” Lucy snuggles ‘her’ Gracie and thanks her for coming to visit. “Gracie reminds me of me when Josh first got injured. I was hurting so much inside but had to act like I was fine.” For her it has been ‘very, very hard’ since her husband was hurt. She takes it one day at a time. She tells her children twelve, ten and two that ‘we just have to go on with our lives and be happy daddy is alive.’ Their lives will never be the same, and in a sense life stopped on that ‘Alive Day.’ She tells them, “Your dad went to war and he got hurt. He is a hero.”
Lucy is a hero too. Perhaps someday her children will understand her sacrifices and service. She has a deep faith in God and without him feels she couldn’t go on. There were many times when Josh was in such a deep, deep depression, he tried to kill himself. “I was begging him not to do this.” It was at times like this that “God sent me a lot of angels. Angels like Gracie, the Soldier’s angel.”
She asks herself over and over "if this is what I want. Can I be a caregiver, wife and mother? I have to take it one day at a time.” Faith is Lucy’s peace. Her friends are her angels and support system. They move as one. Together they cry as they bear each other's tremendous burdens.
Their tours of duty are for a lifetime.
Lucy’s story is who she is. Each morning I find an email from her, asking, “How is my little Gracie?” I try to find the right words for her in my return messages. I tell her Gracie is fine, going to have a bath, or she lost her favorite toy, or that she helped me dry my tears.
But what I want to tell her is that we only have this one life, yesterday is gone and tomorrow hasn’t come. That life can only be found in this place, this moment, this breath. Life is right now. I want to tell her that Josh isn’t the only one broken. We are all broken. Being broken makes us human. I want to tell her to stop trying to be perfect. She is perfect right now, just the way she is. I tell Lucy to find space for her. Find a caretaker for Josh and the kids for a couple of days. “Go play, go be a girl, paint your toenails, act silly, dance in the rain. If you don’t take care of you, you can’t take care of anyone else.”
Lucy is unraveling.
I fear for her.
I feel her pain.
"Retreat from the world's noise and the clamor of your own worries.
In silence you can hear the whisper of the Infinite."
"No matter where we are we need those friends who trudge across from their neighborhoods to ours."
"There are those whose lives affect all others around them. Quietly touching one heart, who in turn, touches another. Reaching out to ends further than they would ever know."
"The work of your heart, the work of taking time to listen, to help, is also your gift to the whole of the world."