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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, her son 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 begins Reserve Duty and her son Shmulik is now a soldier. She recently opened a publishing house, helping other authors fulfill their dream to publish.
Links to the Author's blogs:
I took a few days and didn't write anything. I missed it a bit - thought about it a few times - and just left it alone for a few days. I took a day to attend my nephew's military ceremony appointing him as an officer, spoke at a Social Media conference in Jerusalem, traveled north to a client. This is what life felt like before Elie went into the army and it is a lull I am enjoying; a time I take for myself.
My heart and brain have been completely mine...inside me, whole. I haven't feared a phone call...or at least not any that a normal mother would not fear. I have listened to the news, but names and places blur. He isn't near Kalkilye; he isn't over there. I worry for the soldiers who are there...but it is back to the level of a normal Israeli, normal concern, normal.
Life is filled with before and after moments. Some we know and expect; others we can never imagine. Forever after, life is divided by that moment and yet, often, you just couldn't expect it, didn't imagine the impact it would have.
Before Elie went into the army - there was a huge black space in his future and mine that I really tried to avoid thinking about. There was nothing I could do and the day would come soon enough...and when it did and I realized I could no longer avoid it, it tested me, challenged me, and changed me.
It changed my relationship with Elie in a way I never imagined it would - we are closer and I appreciate the person he has become. I so desperately hope it will do the same with my next son as well. It changed my relationship with the other members of my family - some for the good and some for the bad and I have to work on that.
It changed my relationship with God...I can't really explain that other than to say that when you are afraid, you trust more, you believe more, you beg more and you understand that God is all powerful and that all things rest in His hands and so you pray...you pray that what is good for you is really for the good of all. And you fear...not just for the dangers that are known, but for the judgment that is not.
This blog, which began as a personal journey, has taken off and touched others and I am forever grateful that those it has touched have often shared with me their thoughts (while taking my worries, fears and joys as theirs as well). I have met people – amazing, wonderful, warm and loving people from around the world.
That was never my goal and yet it has happened and continues to happen. There are other bloggers and sites that take my words and spread them further and for this too I am grateful.
And there are the detractors – the nasty ones, like the one who calls himself/herself simply SK and after my last post wrote, “You think now you could end this?"
I thought about that question last Friday morning as I began preparing for the Sabbath. I’ve thought about the irony of taking Elie home exactly three years to the day after recognizing the journey I was starting. Often I’ve wondered if I should stop and each time so many have written to thank me in some way – for writing what they were feeling about their own voyages, for explaining something about a far off distant land that isn’t really like the way the media says it is, for showing a simple fact…that this boy who puts on a green uniform, remains a person.
In a very real way, I could not have gotten through the last three years without some outlet, some means of dealing with the internal thoughts that kept me awake at night. I wanted to keep them from Elie, couldn’t share them with others in the family who were also afraid or worried. So it was something I needed to do…but do I need to do it again, as Shmulik enters the army?
Probably not – though his unit will be doing different things, watching over different places; his role different during wartime. But I’m stronger than I was, I know so much more, and this time, I have Elie with me to interpret and understand the ways of the army when before it was two of us going in blind.
No, I don’t NEED this blog any more, though I do need the contacts I have made, the friends, the supporters.
Do I think I could end this now? Absolutely. It would be so easy. It did its job…but you see, I didn’t finish mine. Minutes after my youngest child was born, I turned to my husband with a thought…she was a few minutes old and my oldest child was fourteen, a teenager. Elie was going to enter his teenage years in a few months…and in those moments, I realized that for the next twenty years of my life, I would be dealing with teenagers (numerous at times). That was 10 years ago.
In a few weeks, Shmulik turns 20, I’ll have, for the first time in many years, only one teenager at home…another coming around the bend soon enough.
In less than a few weeks, Shmulik enters the army as Elie enters the Reserves. They won’t call him for a year…at least I hope they won’t. But as I have been a soldier’s mother for three years now, all that changes is that the apostrophe shifts…now I will be two soldiers’ mother, three if you count my adopted son Chaim, who will also be going into the army soon…and four if you count my adopted son Yaakov, who will hopefully return and may choose to volunteer as well. Five and six…and thousands and thousands if you understand Israeli culture.
Each is a son of mine, as mine is a son of theirs. I am part of a culture, part of a huge group of women here in Israel and around the world. A soldier’s mother…it is not a term of shame, but of honor. It is not a call to violence, but a prayer for peace. It is a commitment, as real as the one we make when we birth them, as life-altering as that moment was as well.
So, this blog continues, SK, because Yaakov and Elie remain soldiers and Shmulik and Chaim become ones. Because I chose to make my life here with my sons, rather than sit on distant shores and comment about life in Israel. I chose to live my life here and in so doing, committed my sons to their destiny.
I took a week off because it felt good to just feel my sons around me, but what life has made them, what this country requires of them, means I too remain on alert, on call, on duty.
May you all, my friends and readers and most of all, my fellow mothers of soldiers – my sisters…may you all have a blessed day.