Yesterday I went out for the first time, to a doctor's appointment in Spencer. After the doctor we went to Wal-Mart to pick up some things. Spencer is not my usual shopping town and I felt safe knowing I would not be likely to meet anyone I know face to face. I am just not ready for that yet.
We stopped at the photo center to see about scanning some photos sent to Larry by a friend he served with in Vietnam who recently got in touch after 40 years. The photos were in an album, stuck to the plastic cover and to the backing. The girl at the photo center advised us not to attempt to remove the pictures from the album because they would be damaged, and we reluctantly had to agree. So we'll scan them at home, knowing the quality will be poor because the plastic covering can't be removed.
As we discussed the photos the photo center girl commented that these were military pictures. Larry told her where he had gotten them.
She said, "My brother was in Afghanistan. He was killed there."
I stopped in my tracks. Had I heard correctly? Yes, I had. She told us her brother's name and I remembered reading about him: Jamie Nicholas, serving with the Special Forces. And not just Jamie: his brothers and a sister-in-law have also served. Clay County, his home, mourned his loss and honored him well. I followed the news about him closely, because Clay is not so far away; all solder's mothers share the grief of those who lose their children to war.
Our conversation was not tearful but on the edge of tears--pain mixed with pride as she talked about her brother, his commitment to his military career and his family, and about her parents and other siblings. My heart went out to this mother and father who not only lost their son, but did so in a land far away--and saw another son off to the same war just a few months later.
I went to Spencer to avoid meeting others who would offer condolences that I could not handle; instead I found myself sharing memories with a stranger so many years younger than me, but no stranger to sorrow. We are never alone on this journey, are we?