Tommy was barely two weeks old when the most awful wave of out-of-control mother's anxiety/premonition overwhelmed me, and I burst into tears. I know it was just the combination of overactive hormones on an overactive imagination, (think gasoline on a fire), but my thoughts flew far into the future, to a world at war and my baby son all grown up and heading off to fight.
It didn't matter that our country was at peace at the time. Wars come and go in cycles, and I knew chances were pretty good that we'd be at war about the time he was of the age to go fight, and the thought of losing the precious gift I'd just been given was more than I could bear.
As he grew, that fear faded as another battle consumed my worry reserves, along with my time and energy: Tommy developed asthma. I'd watch, feeling helpless, as he struggled just to breathe. There were too many doctor appointments, medicine schedules, and insurance hassles, too many nights sleeping in two-hour snatches in between his nebulizer treatments (and Daniel's and Kendall's, often all three at once), too many sleepless days after my night shift, to worry about any future wars. Lord, just let them live through their childhoods.
Fast forward to Tommy's junior year of high school and decisions about college. He really wanted to go to an academy (as in West Point or the Coast Guard Academy), but learned from friends with asthma, who had already tried, not to bother. He wouldn't pass the physical. Tommy's asthma was well under control by then - he was very athletic and rarely missed any time from school - but he depended on preventive medicine to keep him that way. Because of that, the Army (Marines, Navy, Air Force, Coast Guard, and Merchant Marines) wouldn't let him in.
He was really bummed about it. I patted his back sympathetically, but (and I feel guilty even admitting this) I silently said a prayer of thanks. I never dreamed in those agonizing, scary, sleepless days and nights of his asthma attacks that they were an answer to a prayer I'd uttered shortly after his birth, during a tearful, hormone-induced premonition.
The reason I feel guilty admitting my gratitude is because so many of my friends' sons, and some of Tommy's friends, have spent time in Iraq and Afghanistan.
And now it's even closer to my heart. Just this week, my dear friend Ann's son Heath arrived in Afghanistan. I can't pretend to know how it feels, but I'm pretty sure it's probably ten times worse than that wave of pain I felt so many years ago. Please join me in praying for Heath and Ann and all of the other mothers and sons going through the same thing right now.
Heath and Ann 1981
Ann with Heath and three of her other four kids (!) this past September (photos from her blog)