A Letter to the Mama With the Gold Star

I bet you didn’t picture this -- you never expected to mark Gold Star Mother's Day.

I bet you never thought there would be a day dedicated to you for knowing such immeasurable loss. A day that sounds similar to Mother’s Day, but without the brunches, the homemade gifts, the funny cards.

A day filled with very, very different emotions than that second Sunday in May.

I think of you so often, Gold Star moms. I think of you when I look at my 5-year-old daughter. I think of you as I pull her little blonde hair into a bun for ballet, and wonder if you did that too.

I picture you seeing that bun beneath a helmet for the first time. Trading in tutus for ACUs. Those same big eyes looking back at you, that same big smile. The snuggles, the hugs, her sweet voice whispering, “I’ll be okay,” on the first day of every school year, and every time you put her on a plane to the next destination, duty station or deployment.

I bet you pictured her college graduation, her wedding, her babies.

I know you didn’t picture this. I wonder if you knew she’d join the military when she was little.

I wonder if you knew she’d feel the call to serve. I know once she did, you worried this would happen. I think every mother probably does. I know you are so proud. And, I know you’d lay down your life for one more snuggle, one more hug.

Mama, I hold you in my heart. I think of you when I look at my four year old son, laughing through a game of hide-and-seek, wondering if someday he’ll be counting his quiet breath while hiding in a foreign land.

I picture your little guy, bringing home a gold star sticker on his first spelling assignment. You tousled his hair, telling him how proud you were. I know that sticker has a totally different meaning now.

I think of how many times you played peek-a-boo, always knowing he’d be right there when you moved your hands.

I think of your hands so often. Folded in prayer for a safe return, writing letters to a place you never imagined sending a passing thought to, let alone a child. All those firsts you experienced with your little boy: the dirty worms he brought you, the buried treasures he would find. I wonder if he played soldier. I wonder if you knew then that he’d grow up to be a real-life hero.

Today is a day to honor you. But, we know it shouldn’t be just today. I imagine not a day goes by that you don’t feel that hole in your heart.

You did everything right, Gold Star Moms. We have so much to learn from you. How you raised a child willing to serve. What lessons you taught between breakfasts and bedtime stories that molded a human so selfless, so brave, so compassionate and so caring that they chose a cause so worthy.

We hear repeatedly that freedom isn’t free, but you, Mama, have paid the ultimate price. I wish we had the right words to say to you. I wish we could turn back the hands of time. I wish that we could hold you, and love you and thank you.

You have given so much; it seems inadequate to only give you this reassurance in return. But on Gold Star Mothers Day, we offer this: your sacrifice is not in vain.

Your baby will never be forgotten.

And Mama? Neither will you.

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