— 1 —
We are approaching the one year anniversary of our oldest child leaving the nest for the military. One year since I’ve felt whole. You’d think I would have adjusted by now but to be honest I haven’t.
Being a military parent is the loneliest thing I’ve ever done. I suppose it shouldn’t be. I’m aware of support groups and forums that are there for us to use. It’s just been something I’m unable to talk about. I don’t talk to my friends as much anymore, and when I do it’s mostly small talk. They ask how he’s doing, and what used to be my usual long-winded answers are now relegated to “He’s fine.” I don’t add: “I’m terrified. I don’t look you in the eyes because if I did you’d see that I’m scared. I don’t want you to see that.”
I then turn and ask about their kids, work or whatever instead and let them talk. And while I’m genuinely happy to hear all about their child’s exploits in college, it eats at me. These are my son’s peers, boys who I watched grow into men on the baseball field, in classrooms, and while hanging out together. I love them and then despise myself for wishing I’d not asked how they were. In a few months they will be enjoying the second semester of their sophomore year. Spring breaks. Baseball games. Lining up summer jobs, trips and planning for their junior year. I will spend the spring and summer focused on a bloody area of the middle east, one that is getting bloodier. Waiting.
Just being honest. He volunteered. I get that. I’m just being honest.
Three more years of holding my breath. Three more years of pretending I’m ok and that everything is normal. Three more years of not being able to share with anyone where my son is, what he’s doing, or what he’s told me.
Three more years of feeling like the earth’s gravity has tripled its pull.
I focus on my faith. On my family. This fall I decided to spend some time planning the garden space in the backyard. I’d always planned on doing something special with the space because it’s such a serene spot in our yard/neighborhood. So I’ve decided to set to work once and for all on putting together a lovely, prayerful space. Dust off my green thumb. I told my wife I wanted to build it for her as a gift. In actuality it’s just as much for me as it is for her. Busywork.
I die a little bit each time little brother says he is going to follow his big brother’s footsteps into the military. Those are the most forced smiles of all.
And I look away because I can’t even look a twelve year old boy who idolizes his big brother in the eyes.
Grief and silence also belong together. Grief achieves a poise in the breadth of silence. The force of the passions is lost, and grief, purged of passion, appears all the more clearly as pure grief. The lamentation in grief is transformed into the lamentation of silence. On the river of tears man travels back into silence. ~ Max Picard, The World of Silence, page 71
— 2 —
In many ways I’ve been prepared for this solitaire. How could I not? As a practicing Roman Catholic in America / the world today at times it feels as if you’re all alone. In First Things R.J. Snell recently penned an excellent article that spoke to this:
Although the man of faith is perhaps always solitary, his loneliness is peculiarly modern, for “he looks upon himself as a stranger in modern society which is technically minded, self-centered, and self-loving, almost in a sickly narcissistic fashion, scoring honor upon honor, piling up victory upon victory, reaching for the distant galaxies . . . . What can a man of faith like myself . . . say to a functional utilitarian society?”
Jesus was a Man of Sorrows. The ultimate, in fact. And it’s because of Him that no matter how alone I feel, I know I am not. I’m not alone when I’m at Mass. I’m not alone when I pray the Divine Office each day. I have my faith. I am in communion. Snell continues:
Faith sanctions neither resentment nor indifference nor capitulation, calling instead for presence, for an abiding invitation to communion—“faith does not draw us away,” Francis says, but near, alongside. Faith opens horizons, it does not close them off.
Faith is irenic. Not conciliatory or appeasing or obsequious, but calm and hopeful and courageous. Not mollifying, but pacific: a virtue for which one struggles and labors, fights and toils. It is not dumb or stoic, but rather vigorous and cheerful. It is large-witted and big-hearted and sharp-minded, not sullen or withdrawn or fawning, and never sentimental. … Because I am a man of faith, I have hope; because I hope, there is no place for fear; because I am unafraid, I can love, for love has already cast out my fears.
— 3 —
I’m not alone when I pray the Rosary. (Or re-read and re-watch The Lord of the Rings books and films…something we did many times together and still text about across the miles.)
Given by Lady Galadriel and a source of light through prayer, the phial is for us an image of the Rosary. The Blessed Virgin Mary, fairest of all women, gave us the Rosary as a light in dark places. In praying the Rosary, we cry out to Mary the Morning Star that she may guide us to Heaven in her Son. In whispering our Aves, we ask the Queen of Heaven, the Woman robed in stars, for Her aid in the darkest times of life. Even Sam’s prayer to Elbereth is suspiciously similar to the Hail Holy Queen, which we pray to end the Rosary: “Hail Holy Queen…to thee do we cry…in this valley of tears! Turn then, most gracious advocate, thine eyes of mercy towards us.”
We can identify three effects of the phial which also apply to the Rosary. First, the phial provides light to illuminate the hobbits’ path, lest they stumble: By praying the Rosary, we grow in grace and can thus understand better the way we should turn. We have faith that, by praying to God through the powerful intercession of the Mother of God, He will draw us closer to Himself, in Whom is all our joy. Second, the phial gives the hobbits hope. Despite the trials they are facing, the light of Eärendil reminds them of the great stories about how others have triumphed over evil and how, above all the gloom of Mordor, there is yet beauty and goodness and truth. The Rosary of Mary is a source of hope for us, for by meditating on the life of Christ and walking with Him, we come to understand all the more that death is not the end of life, that Christ has conquered death, and that He has promised His kingdom to those who follow Him. The Rosary is Mary’s humble way of leading us through this world while keeping us from despairing of the fullness of life to come. Third, the phial is a terror to evil ones. Shelob, an ancient evil in spider form, took to flight at the flame of the shining phial. Similarly, the Holy Rosary is a terror to demons, a sure weapon in our fight against our own vice and against the world’s evils. For proof, just take a close look at the lives of the saints.
— 4 —
by G. K. Chesterton
The woods are bronzed with autumn
When all the leaves are gold
The year grows old around me
And I am passing old
The walls are gilt with mosses
Leaves are a golden sea
The world is fair and ancient
And all is sweet to me.
When I was young and yearning
I chased a drifting dream
I saw a world’s ideal
Through mere and tangle gleam
But now the common millions
That trust and toil and grieve
Are flushed in one great sunset
The light I soon must leave.
The young heart, wild and windy
May chase the fresh-blown seed
May seek the lonely blossom
That burns upon the mead.
But stricken hearts grow gentle
And I am passing old
And now I sit in autumn
When all the leaves are gold.
For more great photos of autumn and inspirational quotes to accompany them, go here.
— 5 —
This is the 100th edition of The Friday Five. It made its debut on September 16, 2011. I’ve not always been consistent in publishing each volume. If I had we’d have reached #100 at this time in 2013. Sometimes it’s brief, sometimes much too long, but I’ve always liked the format because it gives me a place to put little items I find each week that I want to share with you. At times I’m able to find a theme that ties all five together in some fashion or another. Mostly they’re just a hodge podge of things I find interesting.
I’m not sure how much longer I’ll continue. I had planned to stop at 50. Then 75. Now here it is at 100. They will probably continue for as long as I find items to share and little time to write about them each day. A poem. A song. Photos. An article. Setting aside one day each week is easier than 4-5, you see. I do plan on taking another go at writing a 50,000 word novel in November by participating in the NaNoWriMo, so this may be it for awhile.
I plan to write about the prodigal’s father.
As long as I have something to share I guess I’m not so lonely after all.
Cheers. And thanks.