by Donna A. Tallman
A caisson rides by and I leave to follow it to the next funeral. Just across the road a sign reads, â€œSection 61.â€Â It is a massive parcel of uncultivated dirt growing only two lone trees. As I wonder why an empty lot sits nearby, the top of the Washington Monument peeks above the small rise holding its breath, waiting for my realization.
â€œO God, the next war!â€
I steady myself as waves of grief overtake me. Before I know it, I have taken out my camera, and am taking pictures so I never forget their sacrifice. I walk by the headstones of many highly decorated service members. There is a middle-age grandmother, a Marine who loves the Boston Red Sox, a team of five soldiers, and a grave marker for a Muslim. I stop to pray for these families and weep for their loss.
The cadre of mourners attending the earlier service has mostly disappeared. In its place a non-organized yet subconsciously synchronized, convoy of mini vans arrives. Â A woman gets out of her van, grabs a blanket, lawn chair, and a jug of water before slamming the door. Mounted on the back of her car is a sticker that reads, â€œHalf my heart in Heaven.â€Â Another mini van arrives, and another. Each van carries a single woman armed with grief and memories.
Her home has betrayed her. It is no longer full of the life and hope of her husbandâ€™s return, so she escapes to Arlington to reflect. The widow comes to say the things that she cannot say at home . . . to utter aloud the unspeakable agony of her heart. Surrounded by a field of dead strangers, the widow now feels more at home in a cemetery than she does in her own house. She is tired. She is lonely. She is broken.
In the waning afternoon hours of what has become a typical day, the widow lies face down over her husbandâ€™s grave aching to hold and be held. She whispers a prayer of surrender, and asks for the strength for just one more day. Despite the challenges she knows await her, yesterdayâ€™s widow rises to conquer her own battleâ€¦the battle for her future.
â€œHe gives strength to the weary and increases the power of the weakâ€Â (Isaiah 40:29).
Lord, when I have expended all that I have, remind me that your resources are limitless and you eagerly desire to add your strength to my faith.
*This devotion is an excerpt fromÂ Stories of Faith and Courage from the War in Iraq and Afghanistan (AMG Publishers 2009), co-authored by Jocelyn Green, Jane Hampton Cook, and John Croushorn.