After the wonderful speeches and Taps have been played and everyone has left, there stands a lone figure at the graveside. A piece of her heart lies in this grave and she cannot bring herself to leave it. She remembers the day that this soldier was born, when she anxiously listened for his first screams of life. “Yes,” she said in relief, “he sounds very strong.”
Smiling she turned from the kitchen sink to see him raise himself up and take his first steps. She dried her hands to reach for him as he toddled towards her falling into her arms. “Look at you;” she cooed at him, “you are such a big boy. You are walking.” She was so proud of him and grateful that he was safe in her arms.
On Memorial Day, she dressed him in his little suit and showed him how to salute as the soldiers marched by. She told him how brave they were and how they served our country. “When I grow, I’m going to be brave,” he proclaimed, standing up straight at attention. “I’m going to be a soldier.” She smiled and patted him on the head, “yes, you are my very brave boy. I know that you will do great things.”
She was not surprised when he joined ROTC in college. “You are so handsome in your uniform,” she said as he marched towards her. “Have you received your orders yet?” she continued with a twinge in her chest. As proud as she was of her boy, she was afraid for his safety. Turning to wipe a tear before he could see it, she said, “I’m so proud of you.”
Standing resolutely in an Air Force hanger, she smiled and waved at him, throwing a kiss to her son. “Come home soon,” she yelled over the sound of the jet engines. “But, not too soon,” she said softly. “Come home alive.”
Her next meeting in the Air Force hanger was to greet a flag draped coffin that held a piece of her heart. With her shoulders slumped and her head hanging down, she bent down to kiss the head of the coffin. “My sweet boy you are home,” she choked. Stroking the head of the coffin, she said “rest easy my son your battle is done.”
Sitting in the center chair, she faded in and out as members of the military spoke about her son’s bravery and how many lives he saved. She looked up as they handed her a metal of honor and a folded flag. She wanted to get up, but her legs would not work. She was frozen in her seat. She softly mumbled, “Thank you,” and shook their hands.
Filtering past the coffin, family, friends and military members, stopped to say “we are sorry for your loss.” She forced herself to look up and say, “thank you.” Once everyone was gone, she sat quietly with her son like she had many nights in his youth, making sure that he was okay. She could hear him say, “Mom I’m okay. You don’t need to stay.”
Leaning forward to kiss his head one more time, she fell on top of the coffin. “I’m not ready to let you go,” she sobbed. “Come home with me,” she begged. When she regained her footing, she slowly shuffled to her car. She turned to look at him one more time. Raising her shaking right hand, she saluted her brave hero. “Good night my son. Rest in peace.”