I have been staring at the blank page in front of me for most of the morning as I have tried to get “inspired” to write this piece. Anyone who knows me well knows that writing or speaking is usually not a struggle for me but today it is. Normally what goes on in my personal life is properly pigeon-holed and doesn’t interfere with my work but (I’m supposing as I struggle with these words) that when my work and personal lives become entangled, the result is this struggle.
At the risk of this piece becoming too personal, let me explain what’s going on in my life with the hope that it may help you in yours: As a new Chaplain at my first assignment I am about to receive orders for my first PCS which is anticipated to be a 1-year unaccompanied tour to the Persian Gulf area. Most of you, I know, have already dealt with this—probably many times in your Army career—but this is my first.
am excited about going overseas. I am proud to serve my country and privileged to serve the Army through the Chaplain Corps, but as I prepare to go, many questions have come to my mind: I wonder if my marriage can survive the separation. I’m concerned that my children, fatherless for a year, will become undisciplined. I worry about whether the bills will get paid on time or not and if our newly purchased horse farm will be maintained. I get up at night to be sure the doors are locked and doubt that anyone will think to do that while I’m away. I imagine the engine of our truck locking up for lack of regular maintenance.
With the time counting down, I have found myself trying to instill into my two sons the things that I have always taken care of around the house and with the vehicles. I’ve started trying to help my wife to remember to check that the doors are locked before she goes to bed or leaves the house. I have begun compiling a list of our payments and when they are due so that my wife can take care of them. But none of these preparations seem to relieve my greatest fears. It seems that everyday we hear on the news about another service member who has made the ultimate sacrifice for their country, and I wonder “what if I’m called on to make that same sacrifice?”
My death is not that great of a concern to me as I take comfort in Saint Paul’s words, “For to me, to live is Christ and to die is gain” (Philippians 1:21, NIV), but then I think of my family and even in the safety of my office on Fort Knox, tears come to my eyes. I think of my loving wife, and doubt that she really knows how much I truly love her because I’m lax in showing it. I think about my two sons and realize that I have not been the best example of a Godly man for them to follow and haven’t passed on all of the “manly” things that it is my responsibility to pass on. I think of my two daughters and question whether I have given them enough of my time and affection that will help them seek out a mate that will love, cherish and take care of them.
Now with just a few months left before I go, I realize that there is not enough time to make things completely right. I can’t possibly make up for the years that I let slip by being more concerned with providing for my family than caring for them. It’s easy to look back, though, and see what I would do if I could start all over: I would realize that there’s always going to be work to do and some of it can be left until the next day so that I can get home and spend that evening with my family. I would make sure that I not only told my wife that I love her but would show her that I love her in ways that she understands (See The Five Love Languages by Dr. Gary Chapman). I would sit down with the TV less and go out with my sons more. I would schedule time with my daughters and show them what healthy love looks like. But since time travel so far is not a reality I can’t go back and start over and must live with the time that I am given, do what I can from this point forward and hope for the best.
With that in mind, I’m determined to live each day as though it is my last, whether preparing for deployment or not—treating my wife as she needs and desires; living in front of my sons the life I would want them to emulate; and loving my girls as I should. And maybe, just maybe, with God’s help and blessing on it all, things will work out alright.
Perhaps you find yourself with some of the same feelings that I’ve shared here. Maybe you, too, have wasted the years and have not been everything that your spouse and children have needed you to be. Well, I don’t believe that it’s too late and I know that it is worth any effort. I invite you to determine with me to make every day count. Decide now to spend time with those you love and who love you. Show them you care. Show them your love. Seek God’s help and blessing. Then maybe, just maybe, it will all work out for you, as well.
(by Chaplain (CPT) Daryl Densford. Originally published 2 Feb 06 in The Turret, Fort Knox, KY. )