A Season of Healing
“You will make known to me the path of life; in Your presence is fullness of joy; in Your right hand there are pleasures forever.” — Psalm 16:11
For the last ten years my husband threw himself fully into his military career. He loved the job, the friendships forged, and the call to serve. Being a soldier was and is who he is. Military life was a season of fulfillment for him.
However, the career can be brutal and as a Combat Engineer John was eventually medically retired due to injuries sustained in combat. His military career came to a close ten years before he had planned. We found ourselves looking to the future wondering what came next. So we began to make plans.
Outside of his time as a soldier and police officer John loved to spend hours in the kitchen creating his own recipes. He’s a Food Network addict. Culinary school had always been a dream of his and with the promise of school paid for we began our journey. We chose Tampa, Florida for the Culinary Institute of Art, a high ranking VA, and proximity to extended family.
But plans have a way of detouring.
A week before he was to start school, John’s health took a turn for the worse and additional complications from his injuries made it impossible to stand for long periods of time in a kitchen. Without a doctor’s approval culinary school slipped from his grasp.
The new plan was to set aside six months to heal. Thankfully, through the dream of culinary school and being close to family, we now lived in an area with a VA skilled in the very services John needed.
Transitioning from military life to civilian proved to be more complicated than either of us expected. Ok, maybe more complicated than I expected. As a military spouse I felt as though I already walked the world between civilian and military culture, speaking the language of both. I learned rather quickly navigating a world as my husband’s caregiver, adapting from being primarily a homemaker to pursuing a full-time career, and learning how to make friends without the help of the Army was all foreign territory.
The most important and most difficult new role is that of my husband’s caregiver. As we struggle through his new limitations it is difficult to know when to step in to help and when to step away. Our life is now full of various therapies, doctor appointments, PTSD counseling and occasional ER trips. This isn’t a six month journey toward healing. Instead, it is a new way of life.
We’re reaching out to other veterans nearby and working on building a stronger network of support. Dreams are shifting and changing as we learn the limitations and the potential of his abilities. Healing is happening even though it is not on our time schedule.
The best advice we’ve both heard came from another veteran at church.
“One day you’ll wake up at 0500 and you’ll realize you don’t have to get up and check the barracks and you don’t have to shave. You’ll roll over and let your beard grow and just like that it will hit you, you get to make your own decisions now. The point is not to rush it, to just let it happen as it happens because it will. Maybe it will take a week or maybe five years like it took me.”
I don’t know how long it will take us but I do know that right now we need to embrace this season of healing just as we have embraced other seasons in our lives. Rather than resist it is time to lean in, for John to keep growing out his beard, to listen to the professionals, to enjoy the outdoors more and not hold to a time schedule.
We’re learning to let go of what could have or should have been and enjoy the moments we have together. Healing will come. Maybe not in the way we originally asked or on our schedule. But whatever happens there will be joy in the journey because God is walking through it with us.