Nobody trains you for this.
There is no parent’s manual for what to say to your gorgeous uniform-clad soldier when he calls close to 11pm to say that he will be out of touch for an indefinite time.
No one tells you what words of encouragement to give to him; how to hold it together; how to tell him to be strong and brave; and at the same time how to tell him to watch his back.
Be a hero, but don’t be too much of one.
Be strong, but let yourself be scared a bit too.
Remember to breath, but don’t let your breathing distract you from the mission.
Feel bold and protected with the amazing strength you are going in with; but don’t feel so bold as to be careless.
How do you convey the love of 21 years?
The joy that you felt at learning you were pregnant with him; the minute-by-minute memory of his birth. The love at first site that his older brother had for him, and still has until this day; the years of thumb sucking and hugs, friendships and silliness, Zionism and growth, change and self-actualization. The important role as a big brother, a guiding force and an incredible example for all of the siblings. The years of intense study and then those of intense physical and psychological work for army goals.
How do you work to hold the brothers up, to remain stoic, in the face of so much motherly fear? To hold on to the hope that everything will be alright, and to mask the tears of fear?
So many tears.
Far too many to mask.
Three weeks ago, on that horrible, horrible Shabbat morning we helped him to quickly get ready to leave. None of us understood the enormity of the horror; none of us could possibly understand where he was heading. But we rushed about, organizing and feeding and getting ready. And there was no time for emotion or thought. And then as we said goodbye, and I went to hug him, we both broke down. My burly, towering son. And I thought ‘Oh dear. What have I done? How will I let him leave now? How will he stay strong?’
And then he left. And we all sat in the house and cried.
Cried tears that have only increased with the passing days and the unfolding horror; tears that have only increased with the knowledge that we know and understand so little; tears that have only increased as we hope and pray that the world, that literally seems to have turned upside down, will right itself at some point.
And now, again. But this time over the phone. As I stoically offered words of encouragement and tried to send all of my 21 years of love through the video and into his heart.
Until we hung up.
And then I fell apart.