They Are Someone's Reality

I wish I could tell you that I don't call my fallen soldiers my 'dead guys'...but that's exactly what I call them. For reasons I cannot explain to even myself, it makes it easier. I don't want them to be fallen soldiers. Because I know they are dead, I just want them to be dead guys. Not heroes. Not men like my husband that went to war...but these didn't come back. I just want them to be...guys. It is harder when I realize the circumstances in which they died--were killed. I don't know if any of that makes sense.

But here is the thing...

I thought this was going to be easy. Forget the fact that I hate to draw. Forget the fact that death doesn't make me cringe. I could be that woman that shelters the family watching their loved one actively dying in the hospital room. I wouldn't run from it. I would wrap my arms around the hurting people being left behind, and let their tears soak into me...

But that first email I opened with a fallen soldier's picture was a quick punch to the gut. I smiled. I don't know why. And then tears began pouring down my cheeks. What made me cry was the sight of his two children, the same ages as my two, wrapped tight in his arms. They all three had the same beautiful smile. My heart shattered. "God, what did You ask me to do?"

As I sketched this man and his children, I made small talk...told jokes...asked him why he had to smile largest out of one corner of his mouth because it was a challenge for me to get it right. I didn't talk to the children as I sketched them. I didn't have the courage. Does that even make sense...? All I could think was, "They are so very young. They won't remember him. They won't know how the deep vibrations of his voice will comfort them when they are afraid. They will forget the smell of his aftershave...the rough calloused hand tucked so much larger in their tiny one."

See. It's hard. That's why I call them my 'dead guys'. Just guys. I don't read their name until it is time to ask my prayer team to pray over the portrait and the family receiving it. Until that moment, they are only my dead guys. Which makes me some sort of...weird...girl, huh? Me and my dead heroes. Just hanging out for six hours a day. Crazy.

But every once in a while, I catch sight of some dialogue one of the parents has written in the email requesting a portrait. I see them speaking with such love, telling how their son loved music, or just loved to make people laugh. I can almost picture the mother adoring the picture, staring at that snap shot of their child, holding up a fish, drinking beers with 'brothers', standing tall with a tiny bit of pride while his father tucks an arm around his shoulders...

They are real. Even after death. They aren't ghosts...or fading memories. They are someone's flesh and blood...someone's heartbeat that will never ever cease. They are pride and love...the kind of love that hurts even after death. They're still very much real to their loved ones hurting here on earth...and to me, staring at their pictures, trying to figure out how to bring them to life on my ridiculous sketch paper that leaves so much wanting.

Secretly, I hope I never taste from the cup shoved into these people's hands. I don't want to ever be that mother, wife, sister or lover of these heroes. But neither did the women I am sending the portraits to. We cannot begin to understand that shadow in their life...of loss.

But I...


I can honor that. Somehow. We all can. Somehow.



1 comment

  1. Oh. This post was extraordinary.
    I think...somehow, through the process of obedience in a totally unrelated area, your writing has gone from excellent and beautiful to...

    Something even more.

    Loved this!