This is my first Yom HaZikaron (Israel Memorial Day) with a soldier in my home.
What a heavy change.
Last night, as the memorial began and I thought about my son, out there somewhere in his uniform near the beginning of his service, I had trouble breathing.
I’ve been preparing for his service since the day we stepped off that plane in 2004. Since the day we arrived in Israel.
But preparing for, and being in that moment, are two very different things.
As the siren rang out this morning, piercing the quiet here in Gush Etzion, I thought about my soldier.
My son is in Haifa today.
He’s in his uniform, his glorious uniform. The uniform that sets my heart aflutter when he walks in the door each time; the uniform that I love to wash (after checking for bullets) and that I love to fold and place back on his bed, clean, and ready for another week of service.
But he’s out there today, in that uniform, standing in front of a grave at the military cemetery in Haifa.
He’s standing there, representing the army, the country, for the family that comes to visit their lost loved one. Maybe they will speak to him; maybe they will not; but they will be comforted by the fact that the army cares enough to send him there, serving as a reminder that their fallen soldier has not been forgotten.
The grave he stands in front of today could have been a friend; it might have been a boy who went to Bnei Akiva, like mine did. A boy who loved to play basketball, mountain climb and explore, like mine does. A man who dreamed of traveling to India after his army service, of finding a beautiful wife and settling down someday and having children.
My son, he’s standing in front of this grave of a soldier today; of a man or woman who might have had similar dreams and hopes and prayers.
How does it feel to stand there, as the siren rings, and the family cries? How does it feel to represent the army to this family? To have the symbol of the country on his heart and the weight of the loss on his shoulders? How does it feel to be him?
It’s my first Yom HaZikaron as the mother of a soldier. I don’t know how he feels today.
But I know how I feel.
Proud. Honored. Worried. Fearful. Grateful. In Awe.
This, this is Yom HaZikaron, the first of many, with a soldier in my house.