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Patriotic Article
By Stacey Holley

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Two Beautiful Days
(May 23, 2009)

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The month of May tends to be a difficult month for me as a mother and as I write these words I know that to be the case for so many mother's across this great nation. Sandwiched between two beautiful days of recognition and honor are memories I hold very dear to my heart and will always cherish in this lifetime. The two days I'm referring to are Mother's Day and Memorial Day. Both are days of remembrance and honor, although with completely opposite meanings. The mother's I speak of and that I have been blessed and humbled to cross paths with, are women of great strength and faith, but also encouragers who carry a pain deep in their hearts, a pain that carries with it the emotions of grief and sorrow at the loss of their child – a Fallen American Hero. They are the sons and daughters who grew to be men and women of honor and dignity and who chose to stand out from others and answer the call of military service in the United States Armed Forces. There will never be any doubt in my mind that they were some of the best our nation had to offer, taken from us long before their time. This journey of grief and sorrow is a very personal and intense one, and one few will escape experiencing at some point in life. The difference is, some will be able to prepare in advance and others, such as those I write of in this story, myself included could not have imagined – a ring of the doorbell or knock at the door piercing the silence of most homes, with words spoken to deliver the unfathomable message.

As Mother's Day came and went this year I struggled more than I have in previous years. Consider with me for a moment the “sting” of emotions that envelope you when you experience pain. For those left behind after the loss of a child that "sting," can resemble a swarm of hornets. Grief and sorrow aside, over the past four years I have at times been surprised by my own "hornets" of anxiety and confusion, of why, of loneliness, not to mention immeasurable tears. As a Christian I rejoice at my son's reunion with his Heavenly Father. Yet as a Mother, I mourn a great loss and the fact that quite simply I miss my son, my only child, the legacy of our family. I miss his smile, the mischievous glint in his eyes after playing a practical joke, his laughter, his innocence, his heart for others and most of all his hugs, those warm embracing arms of love. There have been times on this journey where both John and I have found ourselves overwhelmed with facing life as parents without our son, to enjoy those precious moments life offers; the thoughts of that “daughter” who would have been the lady in his life, the potential of grandchildren or the myriad of other happy times. On this journey the one resounding and constant companion for us has been our Faith. Faith has become our autopilot. A Faith that helps me get through the toughest of days, Mothers Day, Memorial Day, birthdays, holidays and for that matter every day. Coming to terms with the deep emotional pain of grief and not allowing it to overtake my life, by giving it up to God and asking for His constant comfort and guidance on what He desires for me on this life journey. In turn, He has promised to help me find my way through the swarm of emotional hornets.

As Mother's Day gives way to Memorial Day it is the first time I've coupled the fact that both of these beautiful days of remembrance and cherished memories fall between one another. This is the fourth year since our son Specialist Matthew Holley was killed in action while serving our nation during Operation Iraqi Freedom. Some days I find myself sprinting, while other days I crawl taking a now familiar path of being a Gold Star Mother, one whose child gave the ultimate sacrifice in service to our country. As promised, my Heavenly Father has truly become my ever present parent, never forsaking, always uplifting, always guiding – Always There. As Psalm 34:18 reminds me, "The Lord is close to the brokenhearted and saves those who are crushed in spirit." He has never left me alone in my grief. Recently I came across a piece that put words around some of my feelings of remembrance. In her book A Mother's Heart Knows, Martha McSweeney shared the following: "A mother's heart knows how to stretch and to grow. A mother's heart knows when it's time to let go." Letting go is an essential part of being a Mom. "Let go to let grow" should be the motto of motherhood.” As a mother considering those words it's hard not to look back on those moments of letting go over the years. After all in most situations is it not Mom who lets go of her child's hand as they take their first steps alone, Mom who lets go of the bicycle handlebars as her child takes that first ride alone and Mom who lets go as the young adult spreads their wings and prepares to leave their childhood home. In letting go, the mother and child, experience their own purposeful growth. I can only imagine that on a cool November evening in 2005, in a war zone known as “The Sandbox” – half way around the world, surrounded by his battle buddies that Matthew "let go, to let grow." Because of his profession of faith so many years before, I know his growth was immediate as he entered into the presence of his Heavenly Father. As these past few years have come to pass, I've come to accept that for me this has become a journey of growing in deeper faith and at times it has been a rather painful stretching process. Yet, I find comfort in understanding that this emotional workout has an ultimate purpose - strength and stamina through God's grace to mold His course in my life.

As Memorial Day arrives Galatians 5:13 resounds in my mind, “You, my brothers, were called to be free. But do not use your freedom to indulge the sinful nature; rather, serve one another in love.” For some, this weekend will be all about the extra day off, the start of the summer season with barbecues, a time of traveling or time to hang out with family and friends. At the same time for many families across this nation Memorial Day will be about celebrating something that for some is rather difficult to fully comprehend – the sacrifices of men and women who have given of their lives for the sake of freedom. Each of them is a hero who offers a unique story in the annuals of American history; each an American who willingly laid down his or her life for a greater cause, in love and for their fellow man. Perhaps part of the struggle to understand these fallen heroes comes with the difficulty in accepting their sacrifice, especially when that sacrifice seems so final and for those who hold no depth of understanding, appears to hold no obvious reward. The idea that anyone could give up everything – for someone they didn't even know – is difficult at best, and in many ways beyond comprehension. We spend so much of life trying to gain, to acquire and to win. Our country is home to the American Dream, the land of opportunity. So contemplating the sacrifice of a fallen hero can be uncomfortable and even confusing.

In approaching this weekend, my prayer is that those across this great land not lose sight of why America observes this day of honor and remembrance. I have but a few requests to ask on behalf of those who have sacrificed all for the sake of freedom. Wherever you may be take a moment to remember these heroes of past and present and to lift up in prayer the mom's and dad's and extended families left behind. To consider those men and women who continue to gallantly serve our nation in dangerous places around the world. Like those who have gone before them, they face uncertainties on a daily basis, and as they do they find strength and courage as they take their positions on the front line of freedom. While enjoying the extended weekend be sure to give thanks for those heroes of today, for there truly is no greater privilege to humanity on earth than to be free. If you know someone currently serving in the military send them a card, email them a note, put a note on their favorite social networking site, send them a text message or better yet call them and thank them for their service. This is a day that should bring gratitude to every American heart. This nation has been, and will always be defended by those who loved liberty more than life and freedom more than their own safety. In the span of a few days of remembrance over an extended weekend, we honor their memory as an annual reminder of a debt that can never be repaid. My hope is that as Americans we keep this in mind as we observe Memorial Day with those who surround us with love and to be reminded of what Abraham Lincoln said: "The mystic cords of memory, stretching from every battlefield and patriot grave to every living heart...should swell a mighty chorus of remembrance and gratitude and rededication on this solemn occasion." Lest we never forget, Freedom is Not Free!

With love and humble appreciation for those who have been by John's and my side and lifted us up in prayer on this journey.

By Stacey Holley
Copyright 2009
All Rights Reserved

About Author:
Stacey is the proud Gold Star mom of Spc. Matthew John Holley, Combat Medic – 101st Airborne, who was killed in action on November 15, 2005 while serving in Iraq.

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