My editor just sent me back Shared Burdens – Book 3 in Sergeant Mike’s Miracle Tour series. The one where Mike finally meets Esther. The mother of his young commanding officer that died in his arms…and the woman he has secretly been in love with for years. So while this book is one of hope and love like all Tara Neale stories it is also about this shitty thing called REAL life. In this case, not just Mike’s PTSD, but a grieving mother as well.
I have to admit it is a pain I have only sampled with my miscarriage. But how much worse to loose a child (they will always be your children no matter how old they get) that you had actually held, kissed away boo-boos, done homework with, laughed, cried and loved for years. As the mother of two children with epilepsy, another two with severe depression and one who serves his country with honor…it is my deepest fear. I do not even allow my mind to go there. But to write this story I had to.
I have told you before about growing up, being raised by my great-grandmother and her friends in the mill village. I have even mentioned Aunt Mildred and Uncle Frank. What I have not told you before was about their son, for whom I am named. He was nineteen when he went out drinking one Friday night with some of his friends…hey, this was the South and that’s what you did. They had a car accident. Terry died a couple of days later of his brain injuries.
Now growing up in this neighborhood with mostly elderly, I was no stranger to death. I don’t think more than a few months ever went by without us going to the mortuary for the receiving of friends. Oh, the casseroles we made. We even lived in a time when the neighbors would take up money and send flowers. I went first with my Aunt Tina who was six years older than I was. Then when she married and moved out, it became my task every time someone died to go around knock on doors and collecting quarters, fifty cents and the occasional dollar.
But this was different. This was not an elderly man or woman, many of whom had been sick for some time and death was a blessing of sorts. This was a young man, who kissed his mother on the cheek and went laughing out the door. Now he was never coming back.
I remember sitting there as Aunt Mildred rocked back and forth. She was a petite woman, a natural size zero, but she had never looked smaller or more fragile. She looked up and of all the people in that room and there were dozens, her eyes lit on mine and she broke down, “What are we going to do without him, Terri Lynn?” (Shh…no one tell my secret there.) Then someone pushed me off their lap and into Aunt Mildred’s arms and she held the six year old me, rocking and crying.
Now after my miscarriage I was given grief counselling and while it was no where near enough it helped some. Got me through the worst of it. Of course, back then, there was no such thing. But community had its own way of taking care of its own. For us that was me. After that I was allowed to walk around the block to Aunt Mildred’s on my own…every day. We would watch soap operas, the Watergate trials and our Veterans coming home from Vietnam. I would sit at her feet on the old back porch that Uncle Frank had turned into a sewing room for her as she made dresses for people…always making one for my Barbies out of the scraps…we could see Terry’s old Pinto sitting untouched under the car port from there.
And sometimes if I was a very good girl she would let me tiptoe into Terry’s room and reach far back into the closet for his Lincoln logs. Of course, I had to be very careful not to move the shoes from where he left them or the three pennies on the night stand that he took out of his pocket before going out that night.
It was Aunt Mildred I thought of when writing about how Esther kept Tommy’s room just as he had left. Her I thought of when Esther was so reluctant to allow Mike to sleep in that hollowed shrine. Not to give too many spoilers but unlike Aunt Mildred, Esther finds her way back from that dark valley of the shadow of death.
But not all parents who lose children do…this story is dedicated not just to the men and women, who serve their countries…but to the Moms and Dads, who make the ultimate sacrifice. Goddess bless and heal you all.