The End of the Journey?

Paula R. Stern,

לבן ריק
לבן ריק
צילום: ערוץ 7
Paula R. Stern
Paula R. Stern is CEO and founder of WritePoint Ltd., a leading technical writing company offering documentation services and training seminars. She made aliyah in 1993 when her oldest son was 6 years old. In March 2007, Elie entered the Artillery Division of the Israeli army and Paula began writing about her experiences as A Soldier"s Mother. The blog continues as Elie moved on to Reserve Duty, her second son, Shmuel served in Kfir and continues as her youngest son David now serves in Givati. She recently opened a publishing house, helping other authors fulfill their dream to publish. Links to the Author's blogs: * A Soldier"s MotherPaulaSays Israel Blogger...

And we are done...11 years of having sons in the army (minus a small break at one point)...has finished. Last week, David gave back his rifle; yesterday he signed the final papers on base and today he returned his "hoger" - his military I.D.

Tomorrow, he returns to his yeshiva to begin again the life of a religious young man, learning and looking forward. 
If I look at the boy he was...and the man he has become, I am so grateful...and relieved.

There are few more horrible things in life than sending your son to an army...and few things more amazing. Today, he is physically stronger than when he went in, more sure of who he is.

It is a special priviledge and honor, a special kind of heaven and a special kind of hell to have a son serve his country. There are things they see and learn that any normal parent would give years off their lives to avoid.

In the end, my sons know that when their country called them, they answered. When they were needed, they stepped forward. Not all do.

For all his life, Elie will always remember that he was Artillery; Shmulik will remember he was Kfir, and Davidi will always be Givati.

In honor they served and with the grace and protection of God, we are done.His rifle will be given to another son, another who will stand on Israel's borders because the fight continues; the war seemingly never ends. Has my journey ended as a soldier's mother? Any Israeli mother would tell you that it hasn't. After my first son left the army (the same week my second son went in),  I started a new chapter of my life as the mother of one soldier in the standing army while being the mother of a reserve soldier. Then three.

When does the journey end? Perhaps the answer is that it already has...perhaps it never will. I can look back to the many times I was afraid, to a fear that lived deep in my soul but with the fear there was faith. I remember one morning when my oldest was in the midst of fighting in Gaza and I couldn't sleep...for six long weeks, I barely slept. That morning, I woke early and decided that I couldn't stand being inside. There was an early morning shiur (lecture) in the synagogue nearby and I decided that I would go. I got dressed in the early Shabbat morning light and left the house and when I walked into the synagogue, there were men and women sitting around a table and listening to a rabbi speak. 

I didn't want to talk to anyone; so I went quietly into the women's section - behind the curtain where nobody could see me and I listened. The rabbi was speaking about the challenges faced by Moshe (Moses) as he became a leader and fulfilled God's commandments. And then he said, "We all have our Mitzrayims (Egypts)" Those words touched my heart as I realized that conquering my fear was my "Mitzrayim" - my job to accept. For 11 years now, I have lived mostly day to day and at times, hour to hour. 

I'm so ready to let that go, to return to a time when I will know where my sons are, what they are doing. When their lives will be back in their hands, if there is such a reality as that. I know without doubt that my sons are richer for having served in the army. What I never expected was that I too would grow and be enriched by the experience. I have met hundreds of parents of soldiers and almost daily I get calls asking my advice. Yesterday, I spoke with a soldier and his mother; this evening another mother wrote to ask me a question. 

What I have learned over these 11 years is that we have much to be proud of...sons and daughters who step forward to meet the challenges and mothers and fathers who stand in the background offering love and support. It's a journey I could wish never to have taken, and one I am infinitely proud in the end that I did.

May God bless the soldiers of Israel, who stand on our borders, serve in every capacity to make this great machine we know as the army run.

And may God bless the mothers of soldiers (and the fathers too). It is one of the hardest things I have ever been called upon to do. It is nights of fear...and pride; days of terror and uncertainty...

They are days and weeks and months and years in which you know that despite it all, your son or daughter is doing something that Jews only dreamed about doing for 2,000 years...defending our land. 

May my son (all my sons and daughters) go from strength to strength in pride and honor. Tomorrow, my son will not be on the borders of Israel. Today, he stood down, stood aside, as others now stop forward.

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