We sent out nine prayer shawls today as part of our work with Prayer Shawls 4 Fallen Soldiers. The last time we sent out the informational letters, we got no response. We received a letter after the shawls were delivered and you can find it on the blog in the January archives.
It was great to get that letter, but there's only one problem with doing this ministry - you never how to, or when to, smile. I mean the reason anyone gets these particular shawls is because they've lost a loved one. They are not injured, they are not missing - they are gone.
In our efforts to make sense of it and to show a heartfelt love and support, we send a prayer shawl to a family we most do not know hoping they will take our offer of love and not feel as if we are intruding on their own personal and private struggle.
We train ourselves to believe that what we do is a right thing. We train ourselves never to expect to hear from a family member and if we do, we prepare ourselves to hear a family member voice displeasure. From the batch of letters I recently sent out, I received three phone calls.
There was a mother who told me about her son and how he had gotten an apartment not far from the Chicago beaches and he loved living there.
Then there was a call from a mom who appreciated the program and looked forward to getting the shawl and wanted to change the address we had.
Then there was the call from the father who appreciated what we do and wanted us to know the child he lost was his only son. He also said there were three boys lost in his very small town and he wanted to make sure I got the name of one of the men he saw just the other day. He gave me the name - I did recognize it, and when I looked it up, I discovered we sent the letter to his ex-wife. Looking over the entire list, I saw there were several soldiers with divorced parents. Fathers and mothers lost their child and that doesn't change because the marriage didn't last. So, we pulled out more prayer shawls to send one to each parent.
It felt good talking to each parent; knowing what we did was appreciated and how they felt assured that we did not forget their children in an unpopular conflict, They were happy to share bits and memories of their children's lives with me and I was touched and happy to hear them. I feel full and blessed to be able to contribute and to want to give something even though I still don't understand how we got here - it's important, but not at that exact moment when a parent is talking about the child with all the memories made. It's those times when it's more important to do the good and right thing. It's the time to listen.
Still don't know when to smile.