Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Out of Sight, Out of Mind?

Not too long ago I was talking with a friend and fellow military wife about the idea that the distance military life places between us and our relatives causes us to be insensitive about the important things that are going on in their lives or to simply forget about them altogether. It is true, probably for everyone, that we tend to place emphasis on whatever is happening right under our noses than on what is happening several hundred or thousands of miles away. But does this mean that we don’t care about what we can’t see, even if it deals with close family?    

It is quite the contrary. What might sometimes seem like carelessness on the part of a military spouse is actually more care and love and desire to help than anyone knows.

During my years as a military wife, my grandmother and grandfather passed away, my dad had major back surgery, my nieces and nephews were born, my mother-in-law broke her wrist, twice, and my uncle had a major heart attack, leaving my Aunt in a state of uncertainty as to whether or not her husband would survive for several weeks. Throughout the difficulties and heartbreak that my family was bearing, I was unavailable to help. The best I could do was offer my support over the phone. I attended funerals, but could not stay to help my family with the grief. I wanted so badly to be able to help, to sit around and reminisce over fond memories of my grandparents, to stop by the houses of my sisters-in-law and help with the new babies, to take a load off for my mother-in-law so she could rest her wrist, and to let my Aunt cry on my shoulder as the worst-case scenario haunted her thoughts. But these things simply weren’t feasible.

 So instead, I continued on with my life as I had to. I pushed my feelings of wanting to help aside because if I didn’t I would be useless not only to distant family, but also to my immediate family. I had to hold it together for something.

Going back to the talk I had with my friend, I think this is the reason some might think that we who move away, we who are part of the military lifestyle, are insensitive. We are forced to push forward no matter what is going on with those we love. We cannot stop time and we cannot change our circumstances. We cannot just pop over to the homes of our family members to check in. Yes, we can pick up the phone and call, but in my experience sometimes talking on the phone is yet another reminder that I cannot physically be there.

We do care, deeply. Out of sight is not out of mind, but rather is a constant hope that our families will be safe and healthy. It is faith that they will be there the next time we visit. It is confidence that the doctors will be able to heal them when they need treatment. And it is trust that our family members know how much we worry about their wellbeing even when we can’t be there.

Sometimes we forget to say what should be said. But even though our bodies are distant, our hearts are centered around the ones we love.  


  1. I am not a military spouse- but I often feel that I would like to help with family, church groups , etc. But with 2 small children- one of whom is still nursing - I am unable to contribute much more than the phonecall either.

    1. Thank you for your thoughts! You are right...military families are not the only ones who must be far away from family. Having kids always makes it challenging to keep in touch with loved ones. Fortunately, in my experience, nearly everyone is understanding!