An Unexpected Gift to an Ailing Marine Mom
I’ll always remember that night. It was April 20, 2014… the evening I off dropped my son at the hotel as he prepared to process into the Marine Corps. I didn’t sleep well as I was worried about how he must be feeling. The next morning I awoke and drove to the MEPS station so I could spend the morning with him before he shipped out to San Diego.
MEPS brought a lot of hurry up and wait but I was grateful to spend time with him. As we chatted and ate a sack lunch, his nervousness was visceral. We talked about everything and nothing… except saying goodbye. They called formation near the end of our meal and the young men quickly picked up their lunch in one swift swoop and threw everything in the trash. My future Marine got in line. We parents watched and waited; we were told we’d have a minute to say goodbye before they left.
We stood by, patiently waiting as our young men received their orders. Finally they were processed and the line moved into the back room to await further instructions. We waited patiently some more, but it seemed that it was without end. I finally went back and took a peek into the room where they were being briefed, but no one was there. I asked where the recruits were and was greatly saddened when I learned they had been taken through the back elevator, loaded onto the busses, and were now in route to the airport.
I sat on a bench with another parent and we wept with the loss of those few words that went unsaid. I didn’t get to say goodbye and I was heartbroken; I felt like following the bus to the airport but relegated to crying for what seemed like forever. We felt the officers at the MEPS station beginning to look at us funny; we knew that it was a sign that our time had come and we needed to leave as well.
Six hours later I received a call, but I couldn’t hear a thing. I later learned it was my son calling from the airport. It was also the same night that I began my letter writing, where I poured my heart and soul through pen and paper. I didn’t get to say goodbye and it troubled me. We avoided saying goodbye, because it was simply too hard; we couldn’t bear the thought that it really could be our last goodbye.
I was going through chemotherapy.
You see, I was very sick when my son left. He had already postponed leaving for a year so that he could care for me, but when I realized things were just not getting better, I encouraged him to do what he needed to do.
I wanted to see him a Marine.
I wrote and wrote. I had written so many letters to him, his recruiter came by the hospital to pick up the letters and mail them on my behalf. He would send two a day and my son never knew or imagined that I was writing from my hospital bed. All in all, I had written 207 letters in his 13 weeks at boot camp.
The letters were encouraging at first, and I also discovered that I had the encouragement I needed through writing them. Although my letters started to take a turn (I think it was the meds), I began to write as different characters like Mickey Mouse, Dory from Finding Nemo, various Nascar drivers, and not to be outdone, I even wrote as the Crucible. Because of the meds, my imagination was limitless and my humor was at its best.
I missed my son terribly. As graduation day was getting nearing, I felt my heart couldn’t process all the emotions I was feeling. I was completing my final rounds of chemo and I wasn’t sure if I would be able to travel. As a result, my doctors and I decided that I would leave 3 weeks early and receive my treatment in San Diego as well as any needed follow up care.
I arrived Wednesday evening prior to Friday’s graduation and made hotel arrangements at MCRD billeting, so if I felt sick or tired, I could go back and take a nap. I couldn’t sleep, try as I might, so I stepped outside to get some air.
As I sat at one of the benches, a young man sat near me and asked if I was okay.
I replied, “I’m a little sick, but the emotion of seeing my son tomorrow doesn’t let me sleep.”
He continued to ask questions and I happily talked about my son and everything he had done for me, and of everything I had gone through, while he had been away.
A moment came when this man looked at me with the most compassionate look in his eyes. He asked, “Would you like to see your son right now?”
I laughed at the idea of thinking I could actually see him. “Of course.” I replied. “I would love to,” and chuckled the sentiment off.
“Let’s go”, he said.
“Where?” I asked.
“To see your son,” he replied.
It was 1:00am and I was now on a recon mission to see my son. He was pulled from the barracks, so I could hold my “Marine” for the very first time. It was the most precious 5 minutes of my life. I hadn’t known that the young man I was speaking with was his Drill Instructor.
My son spent his remaining 10 days of leave by my side at the hospital. I have since been released and he has now finished up SOI. He’s currently at MOS school and GOD willing, I will soon be packing up my IV and meds to see him graduate again.
We still don’t say goodbye, instead we focus on saying, “I love you.” I carry his EGA everywhere. It never leaves my pocket and throughout the day I place it between my fingers and give it a loving rub, because what he doesn’t know, is that HE is the strongest person I ever met.