"The two most powerful warriors are patience and time." Tolstoy
While this quote from Tolstoy seems to contradict our conventional idea of the warrior -- all speed and action --it does makes a certain sense for the mothers of warriors. As the warrior leaves for battle, those waiting at home confront a tumultuous war of emotions: the fear of losing a child, of never seeing him again, of not being able to protect him from grievous harm. It can be a chaotic and exhausting worry. The mothers of warriors make prayerful promises, light candles, carry tokens and talismans, and in some fairy tales, a mother vigilantly tends a plant -- for her son has told her, "if the leaves begin to wither and die, then you will know I too am gone."
Frances Richey -- a single mother whose only son enlisted -- spent the period of her son's training and deployment writing The Warrior, a Mother's Story of a Son At War. It is a memoir written in poetry as a way to both record and contain her emotions in verse. In an interview Richley talks about the tension between caring directly for her son and the warrior who is now on his own perilous journey:
"When I look back over the years of Ben’s growing up, it seems that a combination of magical thinking, prayer, and a sense of instinctive knowing have always sustained me when I was somehow prevented from protecting him...When he was in Iraq, an image of him in a concrete bunker surrounded by maps kept popping up in my mind’s eye. I had no way of knowing where he was or what he was doing. If my subconscious was throwing me the lifeline of a comforting image to hold on to, I wasn’t going to reject it...
...While Ben was deployed, I felt cut off, for the first time, from the ability (real or imagined) to intuit whether he was okay or not. That’s when I started praying. I think this mix of wishful thinking, prayer, and deep connection had to be in the poems because they were integral to my emotional survival during Ben’s deployments.
To survive the battle of emotions at home, mothers (and indeed families) must learn to become warriors of time and patience -- waiting with strength, gratefully acknowledging the time that has safely passed, and celebrating when a letter or an email suddenly appears. They must wear the armor of patience and learn to hold steady, focused on the future day of their child's return.