Fear arrived at my door
with the evening paper
Headlines of winter and war
It will be a long time to peace
And the green rains
by Virginia Adair
Five years ago today I was eight months pregnant with my son and staying with my mom in her home day and night as she tried desperately to recover from surgery to remove a tumor and battled painfully against the cancer which had spread throughout her body. My daughter, still a toddler lie sleeping in an extra room my mom had made just for her. My mom lay in her own bed while I waited for her to call for me, for ice chips, for meds, for anything at all she needed. I sat staring at the TV without recognizing sound or images, a book in my lap, not knowing what to do next, just waiting.
My mom and I had both opposed the beginnings of any kind of invasion of Iraq, but watched day after day as our government fed the world lies and any opposition was crushed and/or faded from the landscape. While sanctions and inspections and non-violent negotiations were thrown aside, my mom and I helplessly glimpsed the loss of our own personal battle. No amount of medication could ease the suffering she endured and no amount of reasoning or resistance could thwart our government from invading Iraq.
When the news broke that evening I sat frozen, more incapable of movement than I had the moment before. I wept quietly so as not to wake the house. I knew at that moment half a world away people were dying; innocent people we were expected to demonize so their deaths would not faze us or we were expected not to acknowledge in light of our country's agenda. I can't tell you how many times I have found myself trying to convince neighbors and yes, even some friends that the people of Iraq are just like you and me. They are mothers and fathers and children and brothers and sisters who seek to be happy and to be able to care for one another just like you and me. It's exasperating that I've ever needed to even address this idea.
I did not know whether to go tell my mom the news. What would this mean to her? She was already dealing with so much. At some point a while later she called to me. I brought her ice chips and water, her medications and straightened her bed clothes. Such small comforts were all it seemed I could give her. I told my mom the news then. She insisted I help her to the living room to see the reports for herself. We all hang onto every thread of hope until it's gone, don't we? We wept together. We hung our heads in grief. We spoke little of what the future would bring for the world, for us. I know we both thought of my children, her descendants. One sleeping peacefully in the next room and one waiting to be born.
The next few weeks are a blur of memories for me. We tried to keep going against fading hope. My mom pretended to regain her strength and sent me home only to call me back to her side almost immediately. By the end of March my mom was in the hospital unable to open her eyes or speak anymore. I caught glimpses of what was going on in Iraq as I passed hospital TV sets. My only contact with the outside world... I could not bear to watch. My mom died at Hospice less than a month after the war began.
Five years later, though I see the truth everyday, it is inconceivable to me that this war still continues, that the war is as old as my son and as old as my own grief. For awhile after my mom died I couldn't grieve her passing. I thought instead of the people of Iraq and how my own grief could not even compare to what so many of them had lost. It took me awhile to understand that my grief was my own and that I needed to feel it and not compare it with others, so that I might move forward. So that I might one day be able to again emulate the things my mom had taught me and shown me through her own great life, her hard fought convictions and her endless strength.
I have watched friends and neighbors leave for Iraq in the last five years, some more than once. It seems each time two or three are coming home, two or three are on their way. A friend of my husband's lost his life in this terrible war and we see the effects on those who came home with their lives, but with their lives irrevocably changed.
I think of my mom and what her thoughts and feelings would've been during the last five years. I know she would've felt compassion, sorrow and worry for everyone involved in this war; the Iraqi citizens, the soldiers, the people who have lost something and sometimes everything due to this war. I know she would've worried about what she loved most in her life, her grandchildren. Just as she and my father had hesitated to have children due to the tremendous turmoil of the the sixties and seventies because they worried what kind of world I would grow up in, I know she would wonder and worry the same for her grandchildren. I know on this day, five years after this terrible war began, my mom if she were alive, would be attending the vigil to be held in our city. I know I would be with her. Tonight, I will be there and my mom will be with me in my heart.
Because of all the ways my mom and I are alike, we both just always hoped and wanted for a better world for our children and for all children.