On Sunday afternoons, our sons, Stephen and Alex, prepare for their lives as Catholics by going to a religion class. Margaret and I take advantage of the hour we have to give each other a little friendly, competitive push on our running. We talk, laugh, and try to out-do each other like good team mates should.
As we prepared Sunday night for a busy week ahead, all was right with in our world.
Monday was a normal school day and things went as they should. The bad news came Monday night, when the phone rang late. I normally would not have answered, but this time the ring had an urgent sound to it, as phones sometimes do. It was Kim, a friend of Margaret’s and mine. She wanted to tell me something terrible had happened to another friend’s son.Kim said our friend’s son had died. She was not sure of the details because she had received the news “through the grape vine”. We were not even sure if it was true.
Within seconds of hanging up from Kim, Margaret called to tell me what had happened. This friend’s son’s death was all too real.
Matt, the young man that died, was only 23. He was the only son of four children. He was a black belt many times over. He was a veteran of the Iraq war serving four tours of duty. He had also just recently signed up for the National Guard. He was a quiet, gentle kid always thinking of how he could help others. Amazingly, he wanted to serve our country even more than he had before.
Now the shock of this tragedy was starting to sink in for us. I could only imagine how his mother must feel. Matt and his mother where very close.
In this very sad time the circles of friends we have, where all at a loss as to what to do. Most of all, we were at a loss for words. Everyone was trying to do something, anything to make it better for Matt’s mother.
With no way to truly help, we cried.
We cried for his mother’s loss. We cried because we all knew Matt. We cried because we are all mothers. We also cried for all the losses of the mothers and fathers all over the country that are suffering due to this war or any war, for that matter.
A rainy, cold Tuesday was fitting for my mood that day. With the news still sinking in, the close circle of friends stayed in contact through e-mail. We shared our thoughts and most of all we tried to help each other cope. But, in reality we had the easy part and our lives still moved forward as usual.
My Matthew had made arrangements to spend Tuesday afternoon with his nana. They were going to run errands and then drop by the DMV so Matthew could take the drivers permit test. To much of his excitement, Matthew passed the test. Mark and I now have a student driver in the house.
Although, I am excited for Matthew, I can’t help but be a little sad. I keep thinking somehow I turned around and my baby boy was growing up all to fast. But, then again, I am very happy he has a grandmother that will take the time out of her busy day to spend with him and do these important things that kids need to feel special. Kathryn and Stephen went to piano lessons while Mary Elizabeth slept in the car. For me that day, my life move forward as usual.
By Tuesday night the word was out about Matt’s death. Everyone in our small town wanted to see if they could do something to help. His mother was one of the kick boxing teachers at the karate school we all had grown to love. All her old students and now friends came together at a local sandwich shop to pray, cry and talk about what could be done. Matt’s sisters had come to say thank you for caring and to tell us ways they thought we could help their mother. We learned what had happened to Matt. We learned about the very sad events of the weekend for his mother and her family.
We also learned, once again in the end, Matt showed his heroism and his mother showed her courage, faith, and love of life by donating Matt’s organs. None of us were surprised by this family’s incredible strength.
Wednesday morning, still cold and rainy and still fitting to the mood, was a rush out the door by 7 am. I had to have, my son, Matthew in Easley, an hour away. He was up for a 10 hour day of debate. Where the kids amazingly talked about sanctions, stock issues and reforms.
That same day, our father, as brave as can be, went in for another round of chemo with our mother at his side. For, they are still fighting the cancer that is eating away at our dad’s body.
My other kids did their school work in the car and at the church where the debate was held. They also helped where they could with the debating events. Elizabeth slept in the car and played where ever she was.
On the way home that night, we stopped and picked up a pizza for a late night dinner with our family. Mark and I talked with the kids about how the day went, read the comments on Matthew’s debating and then we kissed our children good night. It was life as usual for me.
Thursday morning the boys were really excited about the adventure they were about to partake with James and their grandparents. There was a very big conference about growing grapes and other small fruits that Matthew just had to attend.
For his dream is to have a muscadine farm where he, his siblings and James can become famous wine makers. They want to sell grapes to cancer research laps, make wine and anything else they can think of to do with the fruit. Incredibly, their grandparents are 110% behind them cheering all the way.
Thursday afternoon, my mother and father packed up the car and the three boys. They were taking them over night to the RAIN conference in Florence, South Carolina, about 4 hours away.
I took the girls home that afternoon to get dinner ready and to get myself ready for the funeral.
Thursday night Margaret and I went to the funeral together to pay our respects. As we drove up to the church we were taken back by all the cars in the parking lot. We walked slowly down a sidewalk that was lined with men in uniform holding American flags. Our walk into the church left us in awe for all the people that had come to show their love and respect for this young man and his mother.
The service was incredible. There was not a dry eye in the church. Everyone cried. They cried for the loss of this young life. They cried because of the things his sisters had said during the service. They cried because of the pictures that where shown. They all cried when our American flag, that covered Matt’s casket, was folded. Everyone cried even more when the bugle player played taps, and when the 21 gun salute was fired.
Even though everyone was filled with pride for this young man and pride for our great country, we cried.
Everyone cried because of the circumstance of this young man’s death. Once again the system had failed and this terrible event should not have been.
It was a tragic night.
Margaret and I went home to our whole families and even though we were both very sad; it was life as usual for me.
Friday came; Margaret and Kathryn went to their Friday home school classes. Our older boys where still in Florence enjoying the RAIN conference. Their grandfather was sick as he could be but never complained. Their grandmother showed her love and support for all her men by spreading herself thin…….watching the boys, learning about growing grapes and taking care of her husband, all 4 hours away from home.
Mary Elizabeth and I stayed home and prepared for our play date that would be later that day. Her new and only little friend came over to play. The girls played while I enjoyed talking to my friend and all was right with my world.
Friday night, everyone came home from the adventure of the conference excited and eager to get started. All three boys could not wait to get home and tell their mothers how things went and what the plans where. They wanted to tell us who they met and what the next step would be for their young lives. They went on and on in their excitement. It was all very wonderful listening and dreaming of their future plans.
Saturday came and it was time to visit Mr. Black and his family. Mr. Black is another instructor at the karate school. Thursday night at the funeral, Margaret had learned Mr. Black and his son were very close to Matt. She had learned the Black family was taking the death of Matt very hard.
After telling our group about her conversation with him, a few of us decided it would be nice to take food to their house and show our love and support.
Saturday afternoon Kim and I took a very American meal over to a very Japanese family.
This family was truly in pain from their loss. We learned how the Black’s really felt about Matt. We learned they truly loved him and how they thought of Matt as one of their own children. We learned Mr. Black’s son and Matt where as close as brothers. Mr. Black said “twins could not have been closer”. We learned Mr. Black felt he had lost a son and nothing would be right for this family again.
As we left, Kim and I hugged everyone again and drove away. We went back to her house talked a little and I went home to my family. It was life as usual for me.
Sunday again, the boys where off to more religion classes and there was another competitive run between sisters. Only this time we ran up the hills and walked, talked and laughed on the down.
Even though, Margaret and I where still felling terrible about the events of the week, we realize this young man could be any one of our children……Life is fragile and much to short……… We know now, more then ever, our sons and my daughters will grow up way to fast. This terrible death could happen in anyones family, even in ours.
As Edwin Starr sang: “WAR!…huh…yeah What is it good for?Absolutely nothing…….Uh ha haa ha”
In reality: It is still life as usual for me.