My oldest son has such a rugged exterior. At five he is intense and highly interested in being tough – yet inside lies such a tender heart.
A heart incredibly moved by others’ pain.
Not so long ago my boys and I stumbled upon the northeast corner of Town Center Park and their very young eyes took in the Korean War Memorial.
The questions soon began.
Why the names up on the wall? Why the drying flowers at the base? Why the flags, why the symbols, why in this place did their mommy suddenly become calm and quiet? Why?
It seemed the door to the reality of life had opened just a bit.
In the next moments I told my sons of the meaning of the wall, of the reality of life and war and the painful embrace the two sometimes require. I told them of heroism and tragedy and the line that often blurs between the two.
I told them the truth about sacrifice.
I told them the truth about freedom.
I told them of the names that belonged to real people – real people that had real families and gave up real lives to fight for something very real that we so easily take for granted. I told them that the flowers on the ground were brought by people who miss someone they love.
“But why do they miss them, mom,” my eldest tilted his concerned face to say.
“Because, my love, they’re gone. They’re gone.”
And in those moments I was reminded of what it really costs to be free and what it means to set aside opinions and platforms to simply be thankful. I was reminded of the importance of opening the eyes of my boys to the sacrifices made on our behalf, of tilting their focus so they can see that others serve.
And yes, my tender, tender son, sometimes die.
I was reminded that I need to remember, too. Remember that we are not entitled, we are fortunate. We are not due the freedom we so easily enjoy, but we are given the benefits of a price paid by others.
And I found myself thankful.
And as we walked from the Korean War Memorial that day my son gazed down at the names etched in brick and was strangely quiet. With moist eyes his fingers passed over the names carved in stone and his five-year-old heart was deep in thought. And, I’d like to think, deep in appreciation.
Or at least that’s where mine was.