Friday, October 28, 2016

Walking Through the Shadows

            My husband laid beside me on our bed, his hands; his fingers spread wide into what appeared to be an open cup. I said his name softly, “Bud.”

            There was no answer. He lay on his side, his gray eyes wide open and I knew. My husband had gone back to another world on the other side of the planet which I could neither see, nor enter.

            His words came in broken bits and pieces as though he probed the darkness for insight. “We were prisoners of war. We were hiking uphill through the snowy forests of France. My legs shook. I couldn’t feel my toes. I heard the shout, ‘Halt!’ My stomach growled. "I was so hungry. Would there be food?"

            For a moment his eyes closed. He breathed a sigh of relief. "The clearing where we were was crowded with snow covered logs. I chose the nearest one and though it was icy and cold, it felt good to sit down. I reached for the stale bread I was handed by a guard and shoved it into my mouth. But as I licked the crumbs off my lips I looked down and saw a frozen hand, the fingers stiff and spread wide reaching out to me.

            “It was horrifying. The log was a dead man--only his hand stuck out of the snow. Just moments before, I’d sat there glad for a place to sit and eat my lunch. But this man would never move again. Death found him. His life—gone forever.”  His eyes squeezed shut for a moment, then opened. 

            “Bud, I love you—I...”  But he still stared into that dark place, lost in a world I could not see, or comprehend.

            “I hate my hand.” His voice dropped to a whisper. “This hand; it’s done awful things—these fingers pulled the trigger and one German after another fell face down in the dirt. But I had to do it. They told us...” His voice rose to a shout. “Shoot anything that moves!’ And so I did.”

            Bud was only 18 when he was drafted and thrust into battle.  He was just a boy.  My thoughts of the war; the awful Battle of the Bulge with bombs bursting over head and firearms repeating their sentences of death over and over again. Almost I could hear the screams.

            Too late, I thought. World War II is over, but it still whispers its message of hate into the fragile minds of brave soldiers who, though some survived, were marked for life with scars marking both mind and body.

            “Bud,” I whispered, “it was war and you told me you fought for your family and country, and you always said you’d do it all over again if another Hitler rose to power sending innocent men, women and children to the ovens where they died by the millions.”

            I reached for his curled hand, but still lost in the past, he pulled away from my touch. Hurt twisted in the deep places of my being. How could I find words to bring comfort to his soul and to mine?

             “Bud, you have beautiful hands and a brave and tender heart.” Tears trembled in my voice. “Why, I’ve watched you cradle your fingers beneath our little ones' chins and gently wipe their tears away. I've watched you build our home, plant a garden. You’re a good husband and father. We love you so much. We always have. We always will.”

            His face softened—a small smile.  His eyes closed, he finally let me hold his hands in mine. 

            Then I reached for the lamp switch.  I tried to swallow the lump building in my throat. “Bud,"  I said softly.  "You always said things were worse in the darkness. Both of us, you and me, we’ll feel better in the morning. The sun will light up the tree tops and we’ll smile at each other while its rays touch our faces.  We have God’s promise. ‘Weeping may endure for the night, but a shout of joy comes in the morning!’

            Not long after this my husband suffered a stroke and a few months later, he left this world for the next.  I miss him more than I can express in words—yet I know someday I will see his dear face again.

            Some of you are walking through the shadows—caught in the mire of darkness and grief.  Reach for the light, dear ones. You are not alone. God loves you and Joy truly does come in the morning.

            “For His anger is but for a moment, His favor is for a lifetime; Weeping may last for the night, But a shout of joy comes in the morning.” ~Psalm 30:5


Janet said...

Ah, what war does to a person. Our son was in the Marine Corps and did not have to go to war but is still scarred from the training to be a killer. He is just a year into his journey of being a Vet. I thank you for your husbands service to and for our country. May the Lord bring you comfort and peace, and pleasant memories of the man whom you comforted and loved.

L. Risor said...

You paint as beautifully with words! Such a powerful memory... and life lesson! Thank you for sharing! <3

Wendy said...

Oh my, this was so powerful to read. I am always in awe of the powerful heart of a husband and a father. One so brave a dear so kind. This is a beautiful memory. One I see you hholding onto like a treasure. What a wonderful, brave, amazing soul your dear one had. And what an amazing woman of God you are too and so brave. Thank you for sharing your heart.

Louree Boyd said...

Your words bring such understanding to me of what your husband went through as a soldier defending our freedom. The meaning of sacrifice is now vivid in my mind. Thank you for being so transparent and willing to share your personal o as the wife of a wonderful husband and father. Your loving encouragement to him speaks deeply to me of what we should be to our husbands.

Beth Niquette said...

I love reading your stories about Dad. Some of the memories are difficult, but just the same, I am deeply moved and I thank God for the parents God gave to me. I love you, Mumsie.