Like the quick, unexpected strike of lightning, our feelings took us by surprise. Our time together abruptly ended as Steve’s ship sailed to foreign soil. The distance apart created a burning ache for our two hearts ablaze.
Marine Corps Weapons Training prepared him for the dangerous trip ahead, but it didn’t prepare me for the possibility of never seeing him again.
“Grab a match for me…will ya, Wayne? This candle’s my only hope for some light. I want to send a letter home to my girl,” said Steve, aka, Maldog.
“There’s a book of matches on the table,” replied Wayne.
“Is this girl the one?” Maldog.
“I think so. I really miss her.”
In the bombed-out building Steve called home with his fellow 8th Marines, he found a secluded spot on the rickety table. The candle burned dimly while he tried to ignore the sounds of battle in the background.
The stationery with the USMC insignia was quickly filled with private promises and endless dreams he wished to share with me.
At twenty years old, Steve’s experiences sent him on the fast track to maturity. He often yearned for home, especially one fateful day on a Reconnaissance Patrol in the streets of disarray.
From the right, rear side of his head, Steve heard the click of a gun. Startled, he turned around, and an obvious misfire occurred as a teenage Lebanese boy tried to take Steve’s life. Perplexed, the boy attempted to fire another round. Steve repeatedly whacked the boy with the butt of his rifle and the youngster fled in fear. The surreal experience left Steve shocked and thankful for his life.
New Jersey, USA-1982
Six, long months were ticking away at a torturously slow pace. Peace often eluded me, except for when I studied his handsome face in the photograph I held so dear.
Our separation caused many types of tears to fall. I knew the taste of them all—those of love, loneliness, and fear, but those of fear were as bitter as could be. I prayed that God would keep him safe in that war-torn part of the world.
I forced myself away from my somber thoughts and called out to my mother.
“Any mail today?” Mom.
“Don’t know, honey. Check outside,” she replied.
The windy, autumn air rustled through my hair as I opened the door. I made my way to the mailbox and tossed each envelope aside desperately searching for one that traveled halfway around the world.
I ran back in the house and whizzed passed my mother waving his letter in my hand.
“I’ll be in my room!” Mom.
From the sound of her reply, my mother was ecstatic for me.
On the comfort of my bed, I opened his letter. As I absorbed his romantic words, spots of hardened wax caught my attention. I rubbed my fingers over the bumps, and envisioned him writing to candlelight in the darkness. Letters from Steve always warmed my heart. I knew he felt the same about mine.
Soon, there would be no more letters and no more waiting. His arrival home was just a mere month away. I anxiously counted the days.
The day finally came and I was extremely nervous. A pack of folded tissues were on standby in the pocket of my leather jacket. Anxiously, I waited for his appearance through the doors of the airport terminal. Finally, face-to-face, he looked more mature and more handsome, yet worn. Steve had seen it all, but now his eyes saw only me.
Tears fell with no restraint onto his uniformed shoulder. He put his arms around me and promised to never leave me again. I reached into my pocket for some soft tissues to collect more tears. After placing them back in my jacket, we found comfort within the grasp of our hands and our long awaited kiss.
Many years have passed since our young love ignited and God permanently joined our separate hearts.
Certain things remain bittersweet, like the candle drippings on the letter and the tear-soaked tissues, which of course, are now dry. Both are treasured and are a reminder of how our love endured.
I’m thankful to God for bringing Steve home safely and for being spared the distinct taste of sorrowful tears.
Despite our happy ending, our lives together still bring tears—of joy, pain, fear and especially love, but all have a touch of sweetness because God has allowed us to taste them together.