Saying Goodbye

I’m a wordsmith.

It should be easy to find the right words to say goodbye. It should be, but it isn’t.

My last night in Savannah I said goodbye to Will in his hotel room. I would have stayed there half the night, but he was exhausted and on the verge of falling asleep even as we visited. I told him I was going to go so he could get some rest. He stood up to hug me.

I told myself I wasn’t going to cry. I was going to be strong. It was a wasted speech.

We held each other and I buried my head in his chest, searching for the words to express how much I love him and how proud I am of him and always have been. At last, I swallow my weakness and wipe my eyes. He is six feet tall and I am barely over five feet.

I reach up to cup his face in my hands and look up at him.

His familiar goatee is gone and he now has a mustache that reaches only to the corner of his lips. Regulations so the gas masks will seal firmly. His mustache is auburn even though his hair is nearly black. His face is heavily stubbled and a fleeting thought of how much good the gas mask will do when they most likely won’t have a chance to shave frequently when they are on a mission.

The beard feels comforting under my hands and yet it is a shock. How did he grow into a man so quickly?

It seems like only yesterday I traded my Wilton cake pans for a cradle. Little good that did. His stomach valve didn’t close properly so he threw up every time he ate. I slept sitting up with him cradled on my chest for fear he might choke in his sleep and I wouldn’t hear him. Those first few months, he nursed frequently and when he wasn’t nursing he was often nestled between my breasts with his tiny fist curled in my long hair.

It shouldn’t even be possible for a mirror image of him to be lying on the bed nearby, but it is.

“I love you so much.” My hands remain on his face, holding him as he looks down at me.

“I know, Mom. I love you too.”

“I know you do, sweetheart. You boys are my reason for living. You’re my miracle baby. I shouldn’t have been able to get pregnant, but I did. My pregnancy was a disaster and each day was a struggle to keep you. Even after you were born it was a struggle. You were so sick.

“I knew you were special. You were a fighter.”

My eyes are filling with tears again and his are also.

“I dedicated you to God a long time ago. I believe with all my heart he has a special plan for you. Take your bible with you. I pray a shield of protection around you and stand on God’s promises for you.”

He nods.

“I love you so much.”

He bites his lip and nods, unable to speak.

I babble on, halting often. I feel like a baby just learning to walk as I search for the right words. How do I tell him my heart feels like it will burst with love and pride for the man he has become and the loving child he has always been?

I notice the books on the dresser and promise to send him more. He and his best friend spent yesterday at the mall, gathering books to take with them. Their packs are already bulging with equipment and weigh an unholy amount, but they wanted books. I once again say I’ll send him more books as soon as I get an address.

It’s a promise I intend to keep, but It was a stalling tactic so I could get my emotions under control. I know if I break down he will also. I’ve always tried to be strong. I cry alone. I give myself two minutes to wail and sob by myself and then wash my face and face the world again. I can have my two minutes, but it has to be later. He has enough emotional strain with the prospect of being separated from his wife and new baby. I have to be the strong one for him.

At last I take a deep breath and just hold him. His strong arms are wrapped around me. That should give me strength, but it threatens to destroy the last of my reserves. We just hold each other. I hear him sniffle.

With utmost reluctance I pull away and smile at him. I pat his face and tell him I love him again. I’ve probably told him that a hundred times since I arrived.

I hug Katie and tell her I am there for her if she needs anything. “I love you, honey.”

“Love you too, Mom.”

Logan James is asleep, but I trace my finger across his cheek. He looks so very much like Will. More tears.

I turn when I reach the door and look back. Will smiles, but his eyes are filled with tears. Mine aren’t. The tears are streaking down my cheeks.

I’m a wordsmith. I should be able to say something profound, but all I have done is tell him I love him. I say it again and close the door behind me.

Maybe that’s all I needed to say.


  1. Oh Julie.

    Reading this made me cry.

    Your boy will be in my thoughts and prayers until he comes home.

    Will is very lucky to have such a wonderful Mom. Looks like you have raised a very good man.

  2. Tara, thank you. I wept as I wrote this, but maybe that’s good also. I need to get it out of my system.

    I have been very blessed to have these wonderful children in my life. They each give me different gifts and each one is so special.

    Will has given me the courage to reach out for my dreams.

  3. Ai, Julie, jeezus… After reading this, if I ever again see a construction in something you’ve written like “I’m a wordsmith… BUT…,” I may be forced to hunt you down and slap you.

    Will and Katie, and you of course, are entering a period of stress and troubled dreams.

    But your thoughts and memories of one another, as captured in moments like this, will carry you all through. What a strong group. I’ll join with the other commenters here in offering my prayers, too.

  4. Julie,
    I could only read the first few paragraphs of this. Maybe I’ll come back later. Already I could tell it was a tear-jerker.

    I already asked a few girls in my Girl Scout troop, and they are interested in making holiday cards to send over to your son and his troop. I’ll have to get his address from you through e-mail.

    Hang tight lady! Sending lots of love.

  5. So who said wordsmiths can’t cry?

    Will and his family are blessed to have you just as you’re blessed to have them.

    Keep strong, and know your friends will keep vigil with you until your son returns.

  6. John, you are always such a rock for me. You and Tony have been such good friends and I thank you for that.

    Prayers for his protection are always welcome and I thank you. As for hunting me down.


  7. Jenny, the guys would love to get cards. Mail call is one of the really bright spots of any soldier’s or prisoner’s life.

    I would be so thankful if the girls would do that.

    When I was going through Will’s things looking for some paperwork for him, I found a box with every card and letter I had sent him while he was in basic. It really touched my heart.

  8. Beth, prayers are the greatest thing anyone can give and I thank you for that. I know for a fact the power of prayer and I’m a firm believer God can and does place a shield around people.

    Thank you so much for the prayers and also this deep friendship that has grown over the years.

  9. Donna, I spent most of my married life alone. That meant I had to be strong for the boys in some pretty dire circumstances. I long ago adopted my two-minute rule.

    I had to get through a disaster, but when it was safe I allowed myself two minutes to cry and throw a fit alone. Then, I had to wash my face, buck up and face whatever was going on.

    It keeps me from wallowing in pity and sinking further into despair. Survival mode, I suppose.

    I thank you so much for being such a good friend and overlooking my political weaknesses. *g*

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