I’m going to gander that today would have been day 365, only because he left the 2nd and so that would make today the last day of what would have been a year long deployment (I’m glad we missed out on that milestone). Looking back over the year I remain so incredibly grateful to friends and family for supporting us and loving us through five long, let’s-test-these-marriage-vow deployments. When I was an FRG leader (and loving every moment of it) I used to tell my spouses to avoid becoming an island: branch out, meet others, etc. Because inherently, those who did so had a harder time of it than the spouses with battle buddies and a good, strong support network behind them. Forget a good wife being behind every amazing soldier: there’s a whole slew of other people behind them, helping them carry on, filling in the gaps when needed, providing support and encouragement, and cheering them on. I know this because I’ve seen the goodness and faithfulness and kindness of so many people time and time again. So a thank you probably isn’t enough. But it’s much deserved anyway, even when it feels hollow in comparison to what I’d like to express in gratitude.

If you are lucky enough, some people may come into your life and leave marks imprinted as deep as any beloved relatives. With that being said, I’d like to thank some people personally.

Because I love them. And because they’re awesome. But mostly, because they helped carry me through during some very tough days.

Miss Mandy.

My battle buddy, who PCS’d, and who I still miss dearly. Thank you for always being there for me. For helping me get through some tough moments. For your companionship and high fives. For allowing me to be a part of your family, for allowing me to love those amazing kiddos of yours, and for always knowing exactly what to say. For the endless Β games of Scrabble, the good food, and knowing exactly what I was going through. And for being an amazing co-keader, of course. And an awesome seamstress (weren’t our kids the cutest that Halloween, so long ago)?!

My ridiculously amazing sister, Brenda.

You’ve come to visit us so many times, no matter where, and I’m sure even when you couldn’t afford it. I love the love you bestow on my littlest Brooks, how you love him like a Momma, and how that love has helped sustain him when the hurt of missing his Daddy was painful for him to bear. For as long as I’ll live I’ll remember the day Brooks was leaving for NTC and The Boy dropped those Neo Pets accidentally down the drain while we were waiting for Brooks to leave, yet again. You jumped in your car and visited every Burger King until you found him his lost Neo Pets, and then some. And then you overnighted those suckers because you understood the tears were for more than some plastic toys. For all the late night phone calls. For loving my little family so darn much. For the times Brooks deployed and we moved in for a few weeks. You planned outings, and trips, and even signed up The Boy for classes. It’s impossible not to miss you. I couldn’t have made it without you.

Miss Tanja.

You tell it like it is, and you love me enough not to sugar coat it. I find myself laughing every time we’re together. You would make me forget, even for a little bit, that doubt in the back of my head, the one I rarely shared with anyone, that I didn’t think I could do this. You were my sounding board, my confidant. How different this year would have been without you! And how it would have dragged on! No kite festival, no outdoor theater, no pedi’s, no fun commissary shopping trips. Let’s make sure none of those stop, okay?

And so the blog comes to an end. When I started writing I did so with the intention of keeping a virtual journal, replete with photos of our journey throughout the year. I wanted Brooks to feel as if he weren’t missing as much as he was. I wanted him to see his son, to not be so shocked by the changes several months mean for a fast growing boy. I wanted to have a sounding board, a way to make sense of all the stuff swirling through my head, day by day. I wanted to give the grief and the numbness and the roller coaster of emotions a tangibility they would have otherwise not had.

With Brooks home now the blog’s purpose comes to an end. For those who followed from the beginning, you walked with us as we prepared to say goodbye, yet again. You walked with us as I had my surgery and as my cousin’s daughter moved in. As our JayJay became ill and then later as we said goodbye to her as well. You walked with us through RandR and the painful goodbye that followed. And sweet homecoming, which was undeniably the best. And even through reintegration. Our journey was our own. And I hope, as I set out to do, that we traveled it with dignity and grace, and that we honored Brooks’s sacrifices along the way.

Thanks for reading.

As always, I remain grateful for today, regardless of the circumstances.