i found a large stack of photos in a box my mom dug out the other day. my grandma was sitting next to me as i flipped through a stack of sepia toned photos, immediately engaged by the handsome uniformed soldiers...about my age probably..but they seemed so much older. in their eyes they carried the weight of a war that i never knew. i paged through about forty five photos. windy beaches that would months later bear the blood of sons and brothers, and smiling groups of soldiers, arms draped round shoulders..the same arms that would hoist each other across battlefields and into trenches. every photo had no name. just a face. a smile. a flash of light reflected across clear, optimistic eyes. a sheen of sunlight illuminating crew-cut blond hair.
i flipped through stacks and stacks, as my mom and two aunts also laughed over old family photos, and they shared stories i had never heard before. i listened.
then i happened to glance up at my grandma.
and the stacks of photos froze in my hand.
and for a moment, i became privy to what it meant to be a war bride. i watched her eyes well up with tears. i watched her hands unfold a letter stamped 1943 and smooth the yellow paper as she read the graceful script. i felt her heartache as a i watched emotions flicker through her eyes. i felt what it must have been like to be married to a man in the service. i was humbled. and i realized that for every moment of freedom i enjoy, for all the rights that are mine....there was a man who fought for them. and there was a woman who fingered letter after letter. women who were wiping away tears of their own as they wiped runny noses and messy faces of their little ones, little ones who asked when daddy was coming home. women who said "i do" to tours of duty and lonely nights and goodbyes.
i considered all this as i watched my friend michelle in her wedding dress yesterday afternoon. beautiful and serene, holding tight to the arm of her husband, a Lance Corporal in the Marines. i listened to her say "i do" with clear confidence because she knew that no matter what, God is going to hold her together, a lesson i have watched her learn with such grace and poise, i am honored to call her my friend.
and i was thankful. that there are women who are called to the high honor of being a war bride.
the wars may have been 64 years apart, but maybe michelle will one day unfold letters and remind her granddaughter that freedom is never free.