Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Stories of Loss and Hope

Sunday's post was an excerpt from my weekly sermon which arose from listening to the stories of mothers who lost children in the war in Iraq. The stories I used primarily came from two sources: National Public Radio archives and Military Families Speak Out. While these sites relate only the tales of families from the United States, they represent a sample of a larger global loss, both in the US and Iraq. I encourage you to read more and learn about the true cost of this war.

Below, are more stories I related on Sunday.


“Anyone who goes through the nightmare of losing a child knows that everyday brings a challenge. You have good days, and not so good days. On the not so good days, all I can do is cry. Sometimes I try to write to help others. There are no books out there to help deal with the loss of your child in war, you know. I do other things too. I garden, I walk. I have a few supportive friends, but basically I cry and spend a lot of time alone. Nick is my only son.”

Debbie Newhouse’s voice is dull and flat as she recounts life after her son’s death over two years ago while serving in Iraq for the United States military. This interview aired Thursday on NPR’s Here and Now as part of a series the program is running focusing on mothers who lost children in the war.

There is something about Debbie’s voice, her tone, her grief, her utter sorrow that catches my attention. Listening to a story about the war is nothing new. It seems that every news hour begins with a daily death. Thoughts of grief and loss are also not new. As a pastor, I accompany families through all kinds of loss, standing vigil at the caskets of beloved ones aged 8 to 88. Yet, there is something inconsolable in Debbie’s melancholic interview that grabs my attention and suddenly, it seems for the first time, I see the true horrors of war, not at the macro level of systems and institutions, but at the micro level of lives lost and families torn asunder. We pray for them every week, but listening to Debbie’s voice, I finally understand why we have been praying.

Debbie is not alone. As of Thursday, 3,742 United States military personnel have lost their lives in Iraq, not counting those who died in hospitals outside the country or returned home maimed both physically and mentally…not to mention the thousands of Iraqis who have died both military and civilians.

The stories these mothers tell is all the same. Life changes forever the day they learn their child has died.

Elaine Johnson remembers “I saw the soldier standing on my door with a notebook in his hand and he asked me if I was Sherwood Baker’s mother and then I knew why he was here. What was so ironic was that I watched the crash before I left the house that day. Without knowing, I saw it on the news. I was praying for these soldiers families and without knowing was praying for my own.”

Doris Kent recalls vividly receiving the news, “At 6:30 in the morning the doorbell rang and my husband ran down to answer it. It was very, very quiet, this silence. He came back up and said it is two army officers and I started crying right then and there, started screaming at the top of my lungs because I knew they were there to tell me Jonathan was killed.” Michelle DeFord, reflecting on her own son's loss this past Mother's Day wrote this:

“I remember the way that it felt the first time they were placed in my arms and the first time I unwrapped the blankets and explored their tiny fingers and counted their toes. You marvel at their tiny eyebrows, the shape of their eyes and the color of their hair. Those memories are engraved on your heart for eternity.

At that moment you feel so much love for them that you know without a doubt you would give your life for theirs should it be required. It is one of the greatest privileges of life to watch them grow and become the people that you knew they could be. This is the natural order of life.

I now have the memory of the last time I held my eldest child. We were standing in line at the Airport. I can still feel his arms around me and his chin resting on my head. My eyes were full of tears and he tried to comfort me by saying he would call every chance he got. I tried desperately not to cry, I didn’t want him to feel sad. David already had enough on his plate. He was headed for Iraq. He chuckled and said, “Come on Mom, there are 130 thousand guys over there what are the odds?”

I also now remember September the 25th, 2004. The day that 3 soldiers came to my door to inform me of David’s death. As a mother your children’s life should be remembered by the date they were born…not the date that they left your world.”


Educator-To-Be said...

Heart-breaking stories. Amy

Doris Kent, said...

I google my son's name out of desparation really. My greatest fear is that he will be forgotten, and that his death won't matter to anyone else. Not a day goes by where I don't cry. I miss him more than I can explain. The pain is beyond comprehension. If it weren't for my other two teenage sons, I would die. But I have to carry on for them because two losses in their lives would be even worse. My son, Cpl Jonathan Santos was killed in our nation's war on Iraq. I don't know how to live with that except to work to bring the troops home, insist our government take care of every veteran to the maximum and advocate for an overhaul of our foreign policy. But I get many days it feels like no one is listening to the pain our nation is in. And yet I still have 'hope'.
Thank you for remembering my son in your give me hope.
Doris Kent