Losing a son at war
Aug 30, 2007 | 2975 views | 0 0 comments | 96 96 recommendations | email to a friend | print

by Terri Winder

When a family member dies, one of the immediate concerns – a “big thing” – is burial plans. It was a mixed blessing that we were spared this responsibility.

Initially, our daughter-in-law expressed a desire to bring Nathan’s body home to his family, which is something we (perhaps selfishly) wanted. Then she decided to honor his wish to be buried in Arlington National Cemetery, which we fully supported.

However, this meant some hard decisions would have to be made. As we told Nathan’s brothers and sisters that he would be interred in Arlington, the most pressing concern was how to get there.

Our oldest son’s wife called us back in tears after they had gone online, trying to find airline tickets. The least expensive ticket was nearly $1,000. She thought that perhaps they might be able to come up with the money for her husband to go, but what about food and lodging?

And she was distraught over the thought of not being able to go. Since marrying into the family, 18 years previously, she had loved and cared for Nathan. She felt his loss just as keenly as any.

It was at that point I made a decision. I asked her, “If we are able to come up with the money for plane tickets, can you do the rest? Can you make work and babysitting arrangements if we make it possible for you and Jared to go?”

She assured us they could, and so I told her to plan accordingly.

This was a great leap of faith. My husband Tom and I had just returned from Ft. Lewis, WA, where we attended a memorial service held for Nathan there. Included in this trip were our son, who had recently returned from Iraq, and his wife. We knew the price tag for that journey. The experience we had there would have been worth any price, but credit cards do have limits, and we have always weighed debt very carefully.

We had 13 children who desired and were able to attend their brother’s funeral. Seven of them had spouses. With grandparents and a nursing baby included, this meant we needed to make arrangements for 25 people to get to Arlington.

The grandparents not only paid their own way, they helped with other’s expenses. The baby went along for the ride, no expense included. Still, a first rough estimate put the total cost at about $27,000. We took a leap of faith and followed the principal we have always tried to adhere to: Do what is right (and let the consequence follow).

Even before we had decided that we couldn’t leave any of the children behind, people volunteered to help us raise the money for the journey. I was uneasy about anyone asking for donations on our behalf, but I was assured people wanted to help. Knowing that we would be mortgaging our future if we refused aid, I relented. Then I worried about what would happen if we got more money than we needed.

In retrospect, I wonder why my faith faltered. A volunteer who helps Army families was able to assemble enough donated frequent flier points to pay for all but two of the airline tickets. The collected contributions – ranging from less than a dollar to as much as $500 – were enough to cover not only the Arlington trip, but most of the Ft. Lewis expenses. Financially, it has all turned out just right, and what a blessing that is.

From cinnamon rolls, to cantaloupe and orange juice, to monetary gifts, I have felt the Lord’s hand in our lives.

This is above and beyond the thoughtful expressions of love and caring shown through visits, cards, flowers, food and- most importantly- prayers. I do not know how to adequately express my gratitude, other than to simply say thank you. You have touched our hearts, and by doing so have helped heal them.

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