I drop off my son Daniel at the airport. (Many other parents might identify with the fact that he leads a far more exciting life than I do.) He hops out of the car and gives me a quick hug goodbye; and as I drive off I am thinking about goodbyes and separations. Probably due to losing my mother at an early age, separation became a big issue in my adult life. No matter how long the separation, goodbyes were difficult. Most of all, saying goodbye to my children.
But today I’m relaxed as Daniel flies off to visit family and friends. I’ve changed over the years; it’s become easier to say goodbye. And I’m thinking about how good that feels as I start out on the two-hour drive home.
On long drives I like listening to books on tape–always nonfiction, and I try to find books read by the authors themselves. The audiobook I hear today is a story written by another mother who is thinking about separation issues. Her book is about saying goodbye to her son. Permanently.
This is the story of Pat Tillman, the professional football player who walked away from his lucrative career in the NFL to join the Army, only to end up killed by “friendly fire” under questionable circumstances in Afghanistan.
Until the news of his death a few years ago, I had never heard of Pat Tillman. And like most people, I wondered how he could have made the choice he did. But that was before I learned about Pat Tillman and who he was. From his mother.
We mothers love nothing more than bragging about our children. And when they turn out well, we like to think we can take some credit.
Although she doesn’t brag about it, I’m sure Pat Tillman’s mother deserves enormous credit for the way he turned out–and the way she raised him. I think about what that means. She changed his diapers. She fed him. She tucked him into bed at night. She taught him. She loved him. She helped mold him into the magnificent man he obviously became.
Her last task as a mother was to mourn him.
It is hard enough to think about the loss—to our country, to his wife, his teammates, his friends–the completely unnecessary loss of a human being who meant so much to so many. But it’s almost unbearable to hear his mother, in her calm, clear voice, reading, word for word, the eulogies spoken at her son’s funeral.
Can you imagine sitting in a recording studio reading into a microphone the speeches celebrating the life of your dead son? I can’t.
I can’t imagine doing such a thing. I can barely listen.
But I do listen. Even when I have to pull over to the side of the road because I can’t see the highway through my tears. I listen to Pat Tillman’s mother all the way home, saying goodbye to her son.