Wednesday, May 06, 2009

Welcome home, my love

Yesterday morning I got a call that Greg had landed safely at a nearby Airforce base, and was on a bus headed for our post here in Southern Germany. (We had expected him later on in the month, but he managed to make it back with the ADVON/advanced party.) The Welcome Home Ceremony was scheduled for 11:15 in the morning, so I packed the children up (along with backpacks full of little toys and sandwiches in case things ran long). The children were more fussy and wild than usual -- excited and emotional all at once. I felt the same. We arrived at the location just early enough to get seats, and then waited.



And waited.



And waited.



A little after the supposed start time (these things never actually start on time, so this was expected), a woman went to the front, grabbed an echo-ey mic, and began to rev up the crowd. Elijah was none-too-pleased; after every group chant of "OPEN THE DOORS!!!", he would turn to me and say "OK, so where's Daddy?"



The waiting was hard on me too. After all of this time, all of the waiting, the struggles, the constant effort to keep our family connected across the miles, and the life we'd lived alone, we were now seated with a huge crowd, waiting together for our men and women to be returned to us.



I felt, to an extent, resentful that I had to share the moment with so many. I feared that the raucous chanting, the waving hand-made signs, the hundreds of other people waiting would cheapen or detract from the tender, joyful celebration of our family becoming whole again.

I needn't have worried. When the doors finally swung open, and we saw one single fist pumping in the air -- that of the first soldier through the entryway -- the entire crowd erupted in wild, deafening applause. It was a roar of voices and a thunder of pounding feet; unbridled joy, completely unmasked, like that of a child's, unrestrained.



In that moment, there was no thought to the people around us, the 13 months we've been apart, the 45 minutes we'd sat in the gym waiting. There were only tears, and screams, and a release of overflowing thankfulness.



I couldn't hold back my tears as I scanned each face of the returned soldiers, searching for the one most precious to me, to us.

After a remarkably brief prayer by the chaplain, they released our soldiers from formation, and the crowd exploded again -- the two groups of people rushing at each other, loved ones falling into each others arms.

I stood high in the bleachers, waiting for Greg to find us, and at last, through the scattered crowds, saw him making his way towards us.

I cannot describe our first kiss, and I won't try. Even now, the memory of holding his face in my hands in that moment makes my heart feel full to bursting, and my face once again salty with tears.

Andrew, upon seeing Greg at last, began to cry as well. He was so overwhelmed with emotion, that it took about an hour before he could really talk with Greg without breaking all to pieces.



Lavella immediately climbed into Greg's arms, and we gathered close together; our family, whole again.

To each dear family member and friend who have stood beside our family from near or far: for your thoughts and prayers, for your emails and phone calls, your online companionship. Your support has meant so much to me. Thank you for all of the love you've shared with us, and for just being there though times both peaceful and full of hope, as well as the darker times of loneliness we've lived through in this past year. With your help and God's strength, we not only survived it, but we've thrived.

Together again, we now face the new challenge of reintegrating as a family; I am confidant, hopeful, excited.



The woman who took this picture for us handed me back my camera and said "It's over. It's really over. You did it. You made it through this entire deployment, and it's all over." As her words sunk in, I could hardly compose myself. Even now, it seems impossible that it really is over. That I only have to play the part of "Mommy" now, and I no longer have to make things work on my own. After more than a year of being strong, of managing my world, of trying to guard my heart against the pain of separation and trying not to feel too much, of staying on top of things and trying not to dream of the end or count the days, it is now All Over. I can let go. He's back. I can breathe now. Thank God, he's home.

Welcome home, my love.

9 comments:

a.susie said...

I am tearfully speechless reading this. Thank You God! I was SO excited when your Dad (Greg's) called! I can't wait to email the kids and let them know.

Welcome home Greg! Back to your family...back to your beautiful, incredible wife...back to your dear little ones. Faith, the strength that you have HAD to find will be a lasting virtue in your life as well as a testimonial to your children and grandchildren!

Enjoy your days of reconnecting and becoming a family, present with each other, once again. We love you all.

Anonymous said...

Crying, just thinking about how wonderful it is to be reunited. I'm so happy for you all- i know you've missed each other terribly! Welcome Home, Greg, and Thank You for your service to our country. Faith, Thank You for Your service to your family and our country, it takes one kick ass lady to do what you do and in the manner that you do so. I love you all. Many hugs, MA.

Jill said...

Welcome home, Greg! I'm so proud of you and proud to be your mom. You look great! You and Faith have done it again for the third time--stood strong in the midst of painful separation and endured long--another victory in the test of faith. Thank God you're home and won't be deployed for at least three years. Yay! Now you can train others to go and do what you've done after three deployments.

Enjoy one another and make some beautiful memories together at home and on your upcoming vacations to Bavaria, Germany and Barcelona, Spain. I love you all! I wish I could give you a big hug right now.
Love,
Mom XOX
PS The family photo is priceless. It captures the emotions of each one of you.

Anonymous said...

Hallelujah welcome home Greg and thanks from us for what you did for our country. God bless you for that! And Faith I'm so happy that you finally got your beloved back to your side and now once again you all can be a whole family. God bless each of you!

Kathy Williams :o)

Sarah said...

gosh, I haven't talk to you in forever really but I'm still here reading along and sobbing just like everyone else so happy it is over for you. I can still remember the first time Greg came back and getting your phone call in an Old Navy dressing room and the relief and excitement... Thank God truly that it is over.

Mom2Zoey said...

Praise God! Thank you for sharing that. ~A

The Kansas City Hoovers said...

That was beautiful Faith. You are truely and amazing woman and you did an awesome job being and doing all you had to do while he was gone. Thank you Jesus for bringing him home safe to you.

Thank you Greg for fighting for our country. It is not something I take lightly. I am so honored that men like you and my husband would give yourself and family for us. Enjoy your family again!!!!

Anonymous said...

Welcome home Greg! Thank you guys so much for sharing this beautiful moment with all of us.

Amanda and Chase

Anonymous said...

Faith,

This was beautiful. Thank you for sharing such a special day with me!

Susan