Like that reader, most of us don't have to deal with the kind of unknown Alexis does. She hasn't had to survive a break-up or divorce...or even had to bury her husband. Those events at least have closure. At least one reviewer has complained that she should have moved on by the time Purpose picks up. But she has been functional - up until Purpose starts. She's written a series of books that broke all-time sales records. She's raising a son. She's bought a house of her own. She has the help of her mother, but overall, she's accomplished a lot, with all things considering. It's at the beginning of Purpose that she really starts to lose it, which is caused by the events unfolding in this story, not just what happened in the past. She's had her bad moments before, but who wouldn't in the same position?
See, she's the wife who's been left behind by her soldier. And to understand what she'd been going through between the end of Promise and the beginning of Purpose, I had to imagine what it would be like to be the wife of a soldier who's gone Missing in Action or become a Prisoner of War. I had to delve into those heart-rending emotions.
I can only imagine what these wives go through - believing their husbands are still alive, having to believe it just to be able to go on with life, but never knowing for sure. The intense ache of waking up every morning wondering if this is the day you'll find out and then going to bed - alone - with still no word. The heartbreak of telling your kids over and over that you don't know when Daddy will be home...and avoiding the words "if he'll be home." Because you have to believe that he will be. Your daily life continues, but in your heart, in your soul, you feel the emptiness - the missing piece that you need to make life whole again.
As we were putting the final touches on Purpose to prepare it for print, my business partner, Chrissi, and I witnessed this exact heartache. Her niece's husband had been in Afghanistan for four or five months, his second deployment. Michelle could go weeks without hearing a single word from Corey. Sometimes their only communication was through Facebook, where she could post pictures and leave comments for him to see whenever he had Internet access, which of course, wasn't often. Phone calls were few and far between.
A few words Michelle posted one day last August while Corey was away:
"You think you know my pain, but I hope you never have to.You don't know the way my heart breaks every time you kiss your significant other, taking for granted the time you have together.You don't have the lonely days spent wanting someone to kiss, or a hand to hold.You don't know about my sleepless nights listening to "our song" attempting to fight back my tears but losing miserably.You don't feel my heart shutter whenever I hear his name or about the Marine Corps... You don't know how it feels to cry yourself to sleep, and wake up reaching for him.Only to be rushed back to reality and have you eyes well up with tears once again."
A few days after posting that, Michelle learned Corey's platoon had been hit. But there was no other news for hours...days. Then she finally heard from him and he was okay. A couple weeks later, the phone rings once more. They've been hit again. This time it's bad. And that's the only news she gets.
She waits hours...days. She hears that he's seriously injured but has no idea just how critically...if he'll even make it. She waits again... Through long days and even longer and lonelier nights. Nobody can tell her anything. She can only imagine the worse. Finally, Corey returns. Home. For good. But not well.
The bomb that killed his friends and Marine brothers also took half of his hand and forearm and left him with other injuries. But at least he's home. At least Michelle has him by her side now. She's no longer left wondering and worrying and never knowing.
Some wives, however, never get this. Some have to bury their soldiers. Some have to wait and wonder if they'll ever come home at all.
While our military men and women are fighting in a far off land, their wives and husbands are fighting right here in our own backyards. They sacrifice, too. Let's not forget them. Alexis and Tristan are fictional characters and their battles can't possibly be real, but there are people suffering their pain, a very real pain we can help shoulder if only we reach out. When you pray for our soldiers, please, don't forget to pray for their spouses and families, as well. They need us, too.