I’ve been blogging for Army Wife Network for over three years now. And if you have been around these parts for any length of time, you have likely heard about my theory as a military spouse to live out the “No-Plan-Plan.”
For the most part, the No-Plan-Plan pertains to the everyday milspouse stuff– the PCSs, TDYs, deployments, when hubby is coming home (ish,) what day he has off (ish), where/when we will be going next (ish)… Well, you get the point.
But sometimes, the No-Plan-Plan happens in big ways when we least expect it. As normal people. (My husband calls that “life.”)
You might know that recently we welcomed our second child into the world. Our darling son was born a couple of months ago, and I was determined to make the transition of parenting a newborn a more enjoyable (see also: less stressful) experience and less like landing a 747 in a blizzard (which seemed to be the case with our sweet first child).
The first three weeks, things were going mostly according to plan. (Well, as much as can be “planned” with a newborn.) Then, on the exact day of our son’s 3-week birthday, we got the call from South Dakota that my husband’s grandpa fell and broke his hip.
While we of course were saddened by this call, we knew that Grandpa Willy’s advanced age (90) and his health (congestive heart failure) probably wouldn’t be conducive to him hanging around this side of heaven much longer.
So we settled in to wait.
But we didn’t have to wait long. Grandpa Willy, Korean War Veteran, passed away within 24 hours of his fall.
Big picture, it was a blessing that he didn’t suffer, so we found comfort in this as we grieved. But me, as a new-again Mama, had to make the decision: Do I fly across the country with my husband, preschooler, and newborn to pay our last respects to this Veteran and family member? Or do I let my fear (mostly of wacky plans/sleep patterns/RSV/flu germs) dictate my decision?
As you can imagine, I opted to “Embrace the Suck” and head to the Midwest for this important yet sorrowful family occasion. So, just a little over 24 hours later, we were all on a plane headed to South Dakota.
A few days later, it was time to say our final goodbyes to this special Veteran. We were fortunate to secure “Military Honors” for Grandpa Willy, which was extra special as my husband is active duty Army and his brother active duty Air Force. When the day came, my soldier-loving-recently-postpartum-self braced for the experience.
It was beautiful. The two service members who conducted the ceremony did an excellent job. So polished, so professional, so moving. From the folding and presentation of the flag to Taps played on the bugle, we couldn’t have asked for a better send off.
After the minister said the final “Amen,” we dried our eyes, took a deep breath, and headed toward the cars. Several of the attendees stopped to thank the two servicemen who bestowed the ceremonial honors that day. However, I wanted to say a different kind of thank you.
I went up to them and shook both of their hands. Then I said:
“Thank you so much for giving up a Saturday to bless our family by conducting this ceremony. Also, if you have a spouse or significant other, please thank HER for the support and patience since YOU had to work this weekend. I am a milspouse myself and understand the struggle. So please, extend our gratitude.”
My heart was bursting with gratefulness at how the military, although comprised of different ranks, branches, goals, and MOS’s, is really one big family that supports each other in our hour of need.
As I walked back to the car, peace, joy, and gratitude flooded over me. Just when I thought the day couldn’t get any better, I noticed the small crowd murmuring and pointing toward a tree north of the cemetery. There, perched on the branches in that South Dakota field, was a bald eagle… I believe standing watch and giving a final send off to a soldier who certainly deserved it.
Never in my wildest dreams would I have imagined that a day of sorrow could invoke so much pride and gratitude in THIS military spouse’s heart.