Semper Fi, Yeager
For quite some time, I have shared the story of our beloved Sergeant Yeager in the context of his military service with Lance Corporal Abraham Tarwoe. I have been invited to share with countless news stations, newspapers, and at ceremonies across the nation, about the bond between Tarwoe and Yeager and their service to country with the United States Marine Corps. It is a worthy story, one that many have been moved by. And yet, there is a longer story that I have not embellished on. It is not a story of heroism in the face of a brutal enemy, but one of steadfast love, heartache, and comical relief. It is the story of these past seven years of Yeager being our constant when the world turned upside down on us and caused us to rewrite the script again and again, removing and adding characters, often against our will. But Yeager, never changing.
At dinner last night, my children once again began asking to read Love Does at bedtime. They bartered with time, to ensure we would be able to read a story from the life of Bob Goff. They have taken to Bob's humor and sometimes unbelievable stories more than the whimsy and adventure in the Chronicles of Narnia; they are delightfully odd children. Sometimes I am too tired or it is too late to read before bed, so they hedge their story time chances in advance. As we read about God's reverse economy; where those who are poor can be rich and the weak will be great, they were all too eager to discuss the topic and clutched notebooks that held a purpose I did not yet know. We discussed blessings and grace and then the topic turned.
In Mariah's notebook, she was writing a song about Yeager. Mackenzie's held a story that she was penning in honor of him. And Simon's was blank as he struggled to bring to recollection a single memory and starting point of his adoration for Yeager, but his emotions were too intense and after hearing his sister's renditions, he said "I wish that I could write like you two." Through coaxing, he was able to write simply, "Yeager I love you." And then he leaned his little head against my side and began to cry, because his little heart was heavy with the thoughts of losing a dear friend who had kept the scary monsters under the bed in check for most of his life.
Apart from myself, these past seven years, Yeager has been the only constant in my children's lives. For children as young as they are, with so many heartaches, this is no small thing. And now, as they see him struggle to get around, his lethargy undeniable, they prepare their tender hearts to live without him. As I write these words in my usual place on the same couch, where for years I have come down while the house is still asleep, but Yeager and I, and I reflect on the immensity of this. Yeager, in his youth was not allowed on furniture. Today, he lays next to me. I had to help him get up, and then covered his body with an afghan that has the beginning lines of Amazing Grace embroidered on the backdrop of a beautiful mountainscape. He is sleeping heavily, his breath reminding me that I am not alone, but will be soon. After many deployments and IVs to stay hydrated in the desert, he would compulsively lick his legs where he would receive the fluids. It was an incessant licking that often would grate my nerves, but is now absent as his body slows down, and all that I hear is the heavy breaths of my friend snuggled next to me. The peace of hearing him breathe so deep and steady, is broken by my tears as I realize it is only peaceful because his days are short. It is a funny thing how the irritating behaviors of loved ones become dear when they are no more.
Yeager is a military hero, but selfishly now, I have to claim him as our family member. He stood in the gap when we had at times, nobody to call on and come to our aid. We fumbled through moves, and mishaps, and extended hospital stays as a motley crew of a young single mother, three babes, and a sweet goofy labrador. He was the tissue that I had not, and what tears his stilly shiny coat did not absorb, his tongue sought to lick away.
My children have withstood a great deal and their tenderness in spite of trial is nothing short of beautiful. When I realized their hearts longed to memorialize such a dear pet, I was compelled to help them to do so. To tell the stories of Yeager, not as the nation knows him, but as he came to us, to walk with us, and to dwell in our hearts until we too breathe our last; for a dog like Yeager, the memory he places on one's heart will not quickly fade.