One of the highlights of the Christmas season in our house is the chance for the children to visit with their godparents. Recently, in anticipation of happy reunions, Nicholas, who turns four at Christmas and Stephen, who is five, were arguing over who had the “funnest” godfather.
“My godfather is Crazy Bill,” said Stephen, “he buys us fun toys that Mom won’t buy and he plays rough in the house and he even taught us how to sail coasters across the room at Daddy’s birthday party!”
“Yeah, well my godfather is Brian and he uses real guns to fight the bad guys far away,” countered Nicholas, looking triumphant for a moment before a shadow crossed his face. And then, “Mom, he won’t be here for Christmas will he?”
“I don’t think so,” I replied gently, “not this year.” Nicholas’s face crumpled. He had lost the godfather competition and he was disappointed as his hopes were dashed. Brian is a hero to our little boys dashing and boyish, with an impish grin and twinkling eyes, he brings stories of foreign lands and treasure in the form of coins from all over the world. A Naval Academy graduate and Navy SEAL, he left the Navy and went to Harvard for his MBA. Then, after conquering the business world with authoritative success, he went out to Hollywood to write screenplays. When the world turned upside down three years ago, Brian heard a distinct call to invest his time and his talent to protect freedom. And so he returned to the Navy. We’re not even certain where he is. But he’s not here.
Thoughts of Brian lead me to think about another man, the same age. His name is Allen. Allen chose the Air Force the same time that Brian chose the Navy. Unlike Brian, he married and has been raising a family while serving his country. While Nicholas mourns losing the godfather competition, my friend Kim, Allen’s wife, sits with her feet up, watching her seven children decorate the house for Christmas. She is sitting, waiting, hoping and willing that each contraction she feels will not bring her baby too soon.
Shortly before her husband left for Iraq last spring, Kim learned she was expecting their eighth baby. Her advent began that day. For eight long months, she has waited and watched and wondered if he would be home in time to welcome his son into the world. She has not waited idly; Advent is not an idle season but one of penitential preparation. She has supervised teenaged driving: taught little girls to crochet: marveled as a two-year-old learned to be a big boy. While her baby grew beneath her heart, she relied on email and all-too-brief telephone calls to hold her husband close to her children and to herself.
As the baby’s birthday draws ever closer, it is apparent that his father won’t be home in time to be the support Kim so dearly desires. She will labor and deliver without the comfort of her husband. So often, we talk about the sacrifices a soldier makes and we forget that entire families are sacrificing daily as well. There are wives and children who are fighting this war here at home. Mothers and fathers and spouses and children are painfully aware of an empty place at Christmas dinner.
When you are nestled all snug in your beds, please say a prayer for Brian and Allen, for Nicholas and Kim and her children, for the men and women and children who are sacrificing daily so that we can sleep soundly at night. If, when you sit to say grace on Christmas Day, you remember the empty places at the tables, please ask the Baby in the manger to bring comfort and joy to the heroes who long to sit with their loved ones and to the brave souls who await their safe return.
Elizabeth Foss is a freelance writer from northern Virginia. Real Learning: Education in the Heart of the Home by Elizabeth Foss can be purchased at www.4reallearning.com.