When my daughter Melissa found out her son (my grandson) Mack had decided to join the United States Marine Corps, her life was forever changed. He had just turned 18 and hadn’t yet graduated from high school when he made the commitment. The two have always shared a special bond but no matter what Melissa said or did, Mack’s mind was made up. He told her it was his calling and something he felt compelled to do. His desire was to serve his country and in his words, is “an honorable thing to do.”
Initially, Mack was to leave for boot camp this summer, in July. However, the date was changed and he is now leaving on May 8: Mother’s Day. Not only is my daughter making the sacrifice of turning her son over to the Marines, he will board a plane to Paris Island, SC on the day we honor and cherish mothers. For Melissa, a mom to four boys, Mother’s Day will be bittersweet from now on.
While Melissa has had a few months to adjust to the idea, her heart has been filled with sadness. The little boy she nurtured and loved has become a man who will go out into the uncertainty of the world – a world over which she has no control.
To her, it seems like yesterday that Mack was a sweet little boy learning to tie his shoes and making his way in the scary world of elementary school. She watched him grow into a young man who loved everything about nature, who hunted, fished and kayaked. She cheered him on as he played junior hockey and competed on his school’s wrestling team. She cried with him when his first girlfriend broke his heart. She was and always will be his biggest cheerleader.
One evening as I was talking to Melissa on the phone, she just started crying out of the blue. “I’m trying so hard to be strong,” she sobbed. “I am just so sad and I don’t know what to do.” I told her that instead of being sad, she should just try to truly enjoy the time she has with Mack before he leaves.
And, that is what she has done. They took a mother-and-son road trip to the U.P. so Mack could spend time with his older brother Brennan, who is a student at Michigan Technical University. She took a sunny afternoon off work and went fishing with him. Together, she and I are planning a combined graduation and send-off party, so Mack’s family and friends can wish him well and say goodbye.
There is a song that perfectly describes how Melissa is feeling about Mack leaving to begin his military service. The song, “This Mother’s Love” by Jill Miller was written as a tribute to Miller’s son when he joined the Marine Corps. In her song, she shares exactly how my daughter is feeling:
“Now you are off to chase your dreams. To become a man and be a Marine. And Lord, it scares me so much. Take my love with you. May it be the rock you can hold on to. No matter where we are, we will never really be apart. You will have a heart full of love. This mother’s love.”