Written on August 17--
One month ago today, on an oddly cool Thursday in Middle Tennessee, I turned off my phone for one hour during a meeting with Julian's psychiatrist. I almost never turn off my phone...but on this day I did.
When I got in the car, at about 9:55, I turned it back on and saw that my brother, Daniel, had called and I had a message. Daniel doesn't call me very often--usually it's when he's talked to Andy and has news. With Andy's leave approaching in a few weeks, I thought maybe Daniel had the date of Andy's arrival to share. As I called my voicemail to retrieve the message, I was thinking of plane tickets and how I was looking forward to being there at the airport when Andy arrived home this time. I chose to miss his last arrival party at the airport in Dallas...and I have regretted that ever since. I met him in Texarkana at my parents...and while it was sweet, I wished that I had made the larger effort to be at the airport. I had already warned Daniel that I would definitely be at the airport for the next homecoming.
And then I heard Daniel's voice say "Sarah, this is Daniel". In four little words, I knew something was very wrong. He continued. "I had a phone call about 20 minutes ago and Andy's been wounded".
I've never actually been punched in the stomach but I suspect that's probably what it feels like. I couldn't breathe. Time just seemed to stop and my heart started hurting that day in a way I have never known before.
I was driving down Hillsboro Road, thinking I should really pull over but knowing I neeeeded to get home. Daniel's deep gravelly voice relayed as many details as he had been given but I could hear him struggling to relay the information. To his credit, he got through the message and even had the forethought to go on and call my husband. Providentially, Joal was in town that day, working close by and he answered when Daniel called. I use the word "providentially" because all three of those details--him being in town, working close by, and in reach of his phone when Daniel called--are all three small miracles. If this had happened on any of the 5 Thursdays before, Joal would have been anywhere from 4 hours to 4 states away.
Joal knows me well and he knew that I would call him first. When I did, his first words to me were "Daniel's already called me and I'm on my way".
We talked for a few minutes, although I don't remember about what exactly. His love calms me in amazing ways and then I knew I could call Daniel back. I did pull off the road for a few minutes to do that. I'm pretty sure my boys were scared quiet in the back seat. When we stopped Grey got out of his chair, crawled up to the front of the Jeep, put his hand on my face and said "Mommy, do you need a Diet Coke?" I did...in a bad way, in fact, but more than that, I needed to get home to Joal.
I explained to the boys that Uncle Andy had been hurt in Afghanistan and we needed to pray for him and then we needed to get home. We prayed together and I drove us home. Grey's prayers always amaze me. Anytime Grey asks God for something, instead of saying "Lord, please" or "God, we ask that you..." Grey says "Jesus, be sure to...". In this case it was "Jesus, be sure to take care of Uncle Andy in the Army. Be sure he's not too scared."
We met Joal at home a few minutes later. Joal and I have been married for 16 years. I've found comfort in his arms so many times. He rights my world. And so it was this day...we spent the rest of the day together, on the phone, on the computer, praying, waiting for information.
I don't remember much else about that day. It's pretty much a blur. I just know that everything changed that day. Life became harder and messier and sweeter. Jesus became more real to me.
Back in the spring, I read of a woman named Angie Smith who received the news that the daughter she was carrying was facing being born with many birth defects and that her daughter would not survive. Upon receiving this heart-breaking news, she began to say "My Jesus is still the same." This became somewhat of a theme that carried her thru the weeks and months that were so difficult--so filled with heart break and mourning. No matter what life brings, my Jesus is still the same.
God the Father wrapped those words around my heart on Thursday, July 17, 2008. I didn't know that day what the future would hold. To be honest, I was pretty scared of the future that day, but I did know that the God who created Andy to be the power-lovin', thrill-seekin', parachute-jumpin', never-say-die, big-hearted Army medic is the same God who will not be defined by whether or not Andy's legs work right or not. In the face of Russian-made bullets, damaged bodies and hurting spirits, My Jesus is still the same.
I rest in that today and every day.
My brother was a hero long before that sniper found his mark and he will continue to be long after this part of his story becomes just another chapter.