So, over the past week since I first started this blog dedicated to my nephew (yes, I know he’s not *really* my nephew but I’ll call it what I want. It’s my blog and I am the queen here!) we have dealt with a hurricane, several family and friend gatherings in honor of Bryant’s impending deployment and finally the goodbyes. It’s been seven days of emotion: happiness, yearning, fear, joy, excitement, nervousness and pride. I want to talk about the pride a bit.

As I watched friends and family surround Bry in the days and nights before he was leaving, I found myself in awe of his stature, his commitment to what he is preparing to do and his ability to stand strong in the whirlwind of hugs, tears and mixed onslaught of emotions.  He was our calm in the storm. Interesting given he is the one leaving and heading into a foreign country 7000 miles from home. It’s also a great statement on his character and the reasons that he will persevere and even flourish during the coming year. Bryant has an innate capacity for inner strength and flexibility. This combination is priceless when walking into circumstances unknown.

His uncle and I went to say goodbye to him the night before he left. It was one of those situations when you feel that gnawing heaviness in the pit of your stomach as you smile and hug and try and make light of a situation that could very well be more important and thereby difficult than you can even allow yourself to imagine. I watched his uncle struggling with the unabashed force of emotions pounding and ranging inside of him. You see, over the years, Bryant had become an integral piece of him – more than a nephew and friend, his connection with him was so tightly interwoven with his own internal mechanisms that saying goodbye for a year was like ripping a part of himself out and letting it go.

Any parent knows the pain of which I am speaking, that moment when you have to let your child go despite the fears, the terrors that you know reside in the world, the dangers and heartaches that await them ‘out there’. Then there is the smaller group of parents that know that fear multiplied by a thousand because their child is headed to war; headed into a land of danger, insecurity, fear and anger. I watched Bryant’s uncle struggling with that impacting stabbing fear as he hugged him goodbye and tears welled into his normally calm, placid eyes. It was in that moment that I realized more than ever, Bryant was the son he had never had, and he had to let him go off into the world completely on his own, something no parent is ever properly prepared for. It was also in that moment that I realized Bryant felt exactly the same way about his uncle. It was one of the bravest things I have ever seen, these two giving each other the emotional support to walk away from one another while silently promising to always be present within one another.

The next morning at the airport, Bryant had to go through the same separation event with his mother. I wasn’t there to see it. I’m not sure I could have managed if I had been. After he had left, we had a conversation via text messages. One message stood out to me above anything else that was said…

“I have no worries. This is what I love to do and I’m gonna do it with honor and make everyone proud!”

I responded by telling him that he already has. I am certain that he is driven to succeed and bring honor and pride to his family. So often our children do not realize that they have already accomplished that very thing. I feel confident that he will have an amazing albeit difficult year ahead of him. I know with all of my heart that he is a good soul, a bright and brilliant spirit filled with honor, passion and integrity. I also know that as long as he trusts and believes in himself he will not only be just fine, he will shine.

So, with that I just want to say how very proud I am of you, Bryant – how proud your whole family is of you – and how much I admire your strength, courage and commitment. I’m thankful to have that to draw on while you are away. You are infinitely loved. Always know that.

Love begins at home, and it is not how much we do… but how much love we put in that action. ~Mother Teresa

Seven Thousand Miles

Seven thousand miles… I just cannot get my head around that. That is, however, the real number of miles away my nephew will be heading as he leaves us and deploys to Afghanistan.

We’ve known about his imminent deployment for quite some time now. In theory, this is supposed to allow his family and friends time to adjust to the idea of his leaving; it should give everyone sufficient time to say what they need and want to say; it offers plenty of time for personal matters to be attended to, finances to be squared away and houses to be put in order before departure for parts unknown.

Tonight there will be a dinner at his house where all of his family can come together and wish him well, safe travels, love and prayers. It allows us all to gather in support and pride and let him know how very much he means to us and how much we support him in this new journey he is about to embark on. We’ll laugh and joke with one another, allowing the love and strength of family to wrap him tightly in our arms, giving him that memory to guide and support him while he is away from us.

And yet, there is the quiet shuddering silence that lies beneath the layers of our composed outer shells. Cold and steeped in fear, the possibility of loss gnaws at our cores – desperately ignored yet screaming to be recognized. How do you honor the faith that he will come home safe and still face the fear of the potential loss? How can you say everything that you want to say ‘just in case’ without dishonoring the pact you made inside of yourself to be strong and not show fear; to be supportive and a positive, nurturing component in an already complex and difficult situation? How can you say goodbye without saying goodbye?

You can’t. Not really.

You can, however, have faith that he knows how much he is loved. You can believe in him and this path that he has chosen. This is what has occupied my heart and mind these last few weeks. It’s what has driven my decision to create this blog. I write for many reasons, but the driving force behind my words throughout my life has been to sort out emotions and situations that I can’t process in any better way.

So, today I begin. I’m not sure what will find its way to this little slice of virtual world, but it will provide me a space to honor my nephew – my friend – and follow him on his journey across this planet. As he goes, so does a piece of my heart and all of my love. So be safe, keep your head down and know that you are loved and never, ever alone – even when you are seven thousand miles away.