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Hand in hand they walked towards the airport terminal.
When they got to the gate the United States Navy Sailor bent down, fervently kissed his wife, then briskly walked away…wanting to put this deployment behind him.
As he disappeared into the plane his wife heard sobbing in the not too far distance. Holding her head high, not wanting tears of her own, she slowly turned around to find the source of the crying.
A few feet away she saw a young couple…a soldier and his girlfriend, standing in the corner. Fear was in his eyes as he desperately tried to console her with promises of coming home safely and forever love.
The sailor’s wife walked over, wrapped the girl in her arms, and then told the soldier that he should leave, that his girl would be taken care of.
As he walked away the upset girl looked up at a face not much older than hers, and said “you can’t possibly help me, you have no idea what this feels like.”
The Navy wife, her heart overflowing with sorrow, calmly said “I don’t have any idea what you are feeling, I won’t try to understand. All that I know it was it feels like for me to watch a loved one walk away.”
Curious, the girlfriend calmed her crying enough to ask “What does this feel like for you?”
“There are no words to describe this,” she said, “just an analogy that might help.”
“To me it feels like I have been pushed off of a cliff. As I’m falling the wind takes the air from me and makes my chest ache. I’m confused as to why I was pushed, and angry at myself for choosing to live so close to the edge.
I try to slow down the fall, but soon enough I accept that I am falling.
Eventually I hit water, shocked at the reality of how cold the water is.
My chest hurts, my head is dizzy, my body is cold, and I decide that I don’t want to live…I don’t want to feel this way anymore.
I start to drown, hoping that this pain will quickly end.
It isn’t long before I realize that I am in shallow water and have to choose.
I have to choose to continue to let myself drown, or to straighten my legs and somehow find the strength to swim upstream to shore.
That is what it feels like to me.”
As the Soldier’s girl listened she felt that she could relate. She had a hard time breathing, her heart hurt, and she wanted something, anything, to take away the pain. She looked into the face of the woman who understood so well, and asked another question. “If it hurts this much for you then why are you so calm, so put together?”
The Navy wife forced a smile on her face and said “I have been pushed over that cliff many times by the big man (the one with deployment orders) and finally decided one day that I didn’t like him pushing me. This time, as I watched him walk towards me, I knew that there was no way around the fall. So I turned around, faced the chasm, and jumped. I embraced the feelings to come, but this time something was different.
This time I learned to fly.”
This story that I wrote has been published in The Chicken Soup for the Soul: Military Families book. If you like these heartfelt short stories then check out the book. Part of the proceeds go to the USO, a program that helps military members and their families.