Saturday was the funeral for a young man who grew up attending my church. Adam Buyes died on November 26 in Helmand Province, Afghanistan. He was only 21.
His body arrived at the Salem airport on Sunday the 4th. Nick and I both wanted to go, but had Jude's birthday party. On Saturday, Nick, as the leader of New Hope's video team, attended and recorded the funeral, while I stayed home to watch the boys. Everyone we knew was already at the church.
This is Adam's mom, Carla. She wins most of the blue ribbons in the cooking category at the state fair every year. Just a few months ago, she was telling me how excited she was to have Adam (and his brother Josh, also a deployed Marine) come home for Christmas.
And now she and Mike (who's in Nick's men's group) are facing the loss of their youngest.
I know in Oregon, we often don't see the impact of the war. There are no active-duty bases of any branch. There are no movie theaters, bars or restaurants replete with men and women in uniform on Saturday nights. There are no fighter jets filling the skies with their piercing screams. Even I, as a military wife, can forget about the military sometimes here.
Not right now.
I wanted to do something -- anything -- to show the family we cared. I sent a sympathy card, which always feels so small and ineffective. Really, what can I say to ease their pain? So when my friend Priscilla reminded me that the funeral procession was passing by very close to my house, I knew I had to go. I dug some cardboard out of the recycling bin, grabbed a Sharpie and started making a sign near the funeral's end.
Jude had just woken up. Jack had just walked into the kitchen with only a shirt on and nothing else. My lunch was half-eaten, and my pitiful sign wasn't finished. But Nick called and said the procession was leaving the parking lot. So I threw some clothes on Jack and Jude in the stroller. I snatched up some hats and gloves and coats. And we booked it to the corner of 45th and Center.
Once Jack stopped crying (we left in such a hurry that he had a minor meltdown), he asked why we were there. I told him a man in the military had been killed by the bad guys, but it was okay because his spirit still lived in heaven with Jesus. And now, his body and his family were driving by, and we wanted to let them know we cared.
Jack's only 4. But he totally got it. The police escorts and Patriot Guard riders came first. They all smiled, nodded and waved at Jack. He thought it was a parade, I think.
Then, Carla and the family drove by. She started crying when she saw Jack holding his sign, and she blew him a kiss.
My pathetic, not-even-finished creation simply said, "Thank you, Adam."
It was only a split second, but her look was like a punch in the gut. I wouldn't have understood before I became a mother....but now I do.
15 minutes after the entire procession left, Jack wouldn't give up his post. Let's go home, I told him. It's starting to rain.
No, he replied. I want everyone to read my sign and know about the good guy.
Walking back, I couldn't help but wonder about Mary. What if, I thought, God had given her a blank book at Jesus' birth and told her to write down the script of her firstborn's life. Everything she wrote would come true. She probably would have written of education, a wife, children, a safe career as the forever King of Israel.
She certainly would have thwarted God's plan to have him die on the cross. Yet her everlasting mother love, if given the chance, would have ruined God's perfect plan for mankind.
I'm betting Carla would have done the same thing for Adam. On his birthday, only in 1990, I'm thinking she would have written about a perfect childhood, good grades, wonderful athletics, close friends, college, wife & kids....to be happy and live a long life. I know she wouldn't have chosen for her baby to die at the hands of evil on the other side of the world.
Yet we have to believe that, like the one He had for Jesus, God has a plan. And Adam's passing from this life to heaven is part of it.
May my mother-love, dear Lord, never get in the way of the plan You have for my boys.
To Mary's son and Carla's son: Thank you for giving your life for my freedom!