The northerí finally blew in, and with it bitter memories of that icy day a year ago when Anneís world fell apart. The chill wind painfully flicked against her cheeks, tousling her hair, but she wasnít moving. The artic wind was no match for the agony that stabbed her heart as she found her way to the cold concrete bench beneath the sprawling, now naked, pecan tree.
She had chosen this place because of it; even though it had been just as naked then. Sheíd envisioned the shade it would provide on a hot summer afternoon; but summer came and went and Anne never made it once. It was more than she could bear. It seemed fitting that the wind was so cold it threatened to suck the breath out of her. She almost hoped it would. Every step closer to death would bring her that much closer to Mark.
She pulled the crinkled paper from her pocket and stepped back in time to the day Mark last thought of her.
January 7, 2006
I hope you never read this letter, but I have this awful feeling in my gut that I should write it anyway. Itís one of those things you canít shake off, like a nightmare that wakes you up from a hard sleep. I know my tour in Iraq is ending soon, but honestly, I think today is the day it will end. I canít tell you how I know, I just know.
Anne quickly looked toward the horizon. The mountains looming majestically in the distance, layered in snow was a welcomed winter postcard from a familiar friend. She loved God, but she didnít understand Him. Thatís the other reason she chose this place for Mark. If it became too hard to look at Markís headstone, the vista would offer a momentary distraction. In all of this, she needed to remember that God is good.
Mom, I want you to know how important this duty has been. It wasnít just a lark to join the Army, it was a calling. I knew this is where God wanted me to be. Iíve never felt closer to Him than I have here, in Iraq. This war is not just political, mom. Itís a spiritual battle. I think weíre here because God wants these people to know how much He loves them.
Itís hard to reconcile that with the realities of war, but in my heart, I know itís true. From day to day Iím not sure if my purpose here has been praying my buddies through a skirmish or making supply drops to people whoíve lost everything because of the war. Maybe itís both.
If you read this letter Mom, itís important to me that you understand something.
I remember reading in the Old Testament that when righteous men are slain, their blood cries up from the ground and God listens. Well, there is none righteous, only Christ. His blood spills on the ground here, each time one of us falls. Each one of us that serves Him here is willing to let our blood cry up from the soil of Iraq, because we carry His blood to these people. I might not have known that in boot camp, but I know it now.
Weíve talked about it a lot, me and the guys. We were all pretty sold out Christians when we enlisted, but the minute our feet touched this soilówe became connected to God in ways we canít even explain. Itís like Heís talking to us all the time, even in dreams.
Thereís a bigger thing going on here and youíre part of it, mom. Thatís my prayer for you, as I head out this morning. I pray youíll see your part; that you had to give me up, sort of like Mary had to let go of her son, because thereís a better plan for these people.
You taught me the most important thingóto honor God, even if it means my life. So if today is my last day, I want to thank you for that and remind you that you will see me again.
Tears inched their way down Anneís cheeks as she read each line again and again desperately trying to understand the painful path of greater good. As they fell softly on the crumpled paper in her hands, Anne cast her gaze toward the hills.
I will lift up mine eyes unto the hills, from whence cometh my help. Psalm 121: 1 KJV
Sixty one American service men and women gave their lives in Operation Iraqi Freedom in January, 2006.
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