While most of us will remember this month as a time to celebrate our independence, many families will remember it as a time when their loved one gave a life for that independence.
By the time you read this, notification teams like mine will have knocked on nearly 4,000 doors to inform coalition families they have lost a loved one in the current war.
Last week, I knocked on yet another door. After our visit, I went home and wrote an entry in my journal. I want to dedicate it to the families of these 4,000 knocks.
Were you No. 1? Were you No. 4,000? They are all starting to run together.
Your family, like all the ones before them, quickly recognized the knock of a stranger. They knew its meaning.
My knock was the final tick tock of the time bomb that was set when you boarded a plane for the war.
Tick tock. Knock, knock.
Like the old joke, we heard the reply on queue.
“Who’s there?” your mother asked.
“Tears!” should have been my answer.
“Tears your heart out of your chest” would be my reply.
I tell them the news you swore they’d never hear. I will tell them to the cadence of the knock. Knock, knock, tick tock.
“Sir or ma’am,” the accompanying sergeant says, “the Secretary of Defense regrets to inform you . . .”
Our words disappeared into their sobs and they are deaf to every word after that; their tears are too loud, their sobbing emotive, explosive and errant.
An improvised explosive device took their son. Now, my visit has brought another explosion. We only can pray our presence somehow muffles some of the terror with tenderness.
They cry. They strain to find a breath.
They have a thousand questions, yet they can’t ask one.
It becomes deathly quiet and I can hear the tick tock of your family clock. All faces are buried in open-palmed hands. No one will look up.
Finally someone does.
“I wouldn’t have your job for all the jobs in the world,” says a man, his beard matted with tears.
I think he is searching for my tears.
He won’t see them.
No one will see them. They won’t see them because I can’t cry anymore.
At first, I was a crier. I cried after the first 10 visits, but not anymore.
Now if I could find the tears, I’d cry 10,000 tears for each one. It’s just that I don’t have 40 million tears. Only God has that many.
Now, I’m only a carrier — someone who carries infectiously bad news, but at the end of the day is not infected himself.
Tomorrow may bring yet another knock.
Tomorrow, promises Revelation 21:4, “God will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more.”