Bluegrass Parkway

Bluegrass Parkway

From Chicken Soup for the Military Wife's Soul

Bluegrass Parkway

Our humanity is a poor thing were it not for the divinity which stirs within us.

Sir Francis Bacon

As an army wife of twelve years, I am no stranger to taking long road trips with our two boys. But a year full of ups and downs amidst numerous separations had left me feeling like my tank was already on empty at the start of my husband’s latest deployment to the Middle East.

The prospect of driving from Fort Campbell, Kentucky, to visit family in New Jersey was overwhelming and filled me with dread. I tried to talk myself out of the trip, but I knew it was important for the boys to spend time with family they had not seen in a year.

As the date for our trip drew near, my husband seemed to sense my anxiety when he called from Iraq, and he did everything he could do to make our trip easier for me. He e-mailed directions, tried to find things for the boys and me to do along the way and sent words of encouragement via e-mail.

The week before the trip was extremely hectic. There were the usual responsibilities, the kids were going crazy with missing their dad, and I got sick. My friends thought I should postpone the trip. I was tempted.

We finally got on the road late in the day on a Tuesday in June. As I searched for the next road change, I glanced over at the passenger seat fully expecting to see my husband sitting there, a map spread across his lap, navigating our way as he usually would on our trips. My heart sank at the sight of the empty seat, and, in spite of myself, I fought tears. What am I doing? I was overwhelmed with a longing for him, and the sleepless nights were catching up with me. I wanted to just turn around and go home. I began to pray and to try to focus on all the ways God shows us we are never really alone.

Just as I found the Kentucky Bluegrass Parkway, the boys really needed to find a restroom. I got off at the next exit onto what turned out to be a stretch of mountain road with no gas stations or restaurants. I turned around to go on to the next exit, but there was no return ramp going east on the parkway. We drove up and down the road to be sure we hadn’t missed a sign, and when we came upon a small church with cars in the parking lot, I decided to ask for some help.

We entered through a side door and found a lively group of ladies, some sewing and ironing, some setting out a pot-luck dinner. They immediately tried to feed us, and several ladies gave me directions. It made me happy just to be near them all. When I laughingly explained that I was turned around because my navigator was in Iraq, they gathered into a circle and prayed for George and the others serving to protect our freedoms. They prayed for the “stranger God sent to us” and for our children and our trip. Then they went a step further and escorted us back to the parkway to continue safely on our way.

Suddenly, the drudgery of the trip disappeared. My heart soared at the sight of the clouds and the mountains and the beauty of God’s love as shown through those ladies. I wasn’t so overwhelmed or tired or lonely. I felt the pride of loving a man as selfless and giving as my husband. I thought about the joy our children bring and of all the blessings in our lives. I began to truly enjoy the drive, and the passenger seat didn’t seem so empty anymore. I thought about the directions George had sent, and all the ways he is there for us even when he can’t physically be with us.

As a matter of fact, I am sure I saw his figure in the clouds blowing me a kiss until his safe return.

Kim Riley

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