Wednesday, October 14, 2015

When Fear Presses In: How a Wounded Warrior Wages War

by Beth Saadati
My nine-year-old son slides his hand into mine as we wander the aisles in search of a gift for his sister. He desires closeness. He wants connection.

I cherish the moment. After all, I know what he doesn’t—that the days before he’s no longer a young boy are numbered. That time speeds by and there’s nothing we can do to stop it.

That’s why we’re here. Because, after nearly three years without a teenager in the house, we’re about to have one. In a few days Christa will turn thirteen.

“Do you know what you want to get your sister?” I ask. Reaching over, I brush his hair to the side so I can see his eyes.

“A sword. I already told her.”

“A sword?”

“Yep,” he says, “so she can fight. I just need to find the right one.”

The mom in me is tempted to tell him to save his money since she’ll outgrow it too soon. Instead, I hold my tongue, because Josh is smiling. He looks happy.

It’s been a long week of uncommon bickering with the sister who’s secretly his best friend. He’s deep, battling thoughts no nine-year-old should have. He’s been fighting fear.

Fear that, lost in new teenage ways, Christa will pull away. Fear that she’ll enter a world of hurtful bullying, listen to lies, and lose her way. Fear that he’ll lose a playmate and sister. Again.

I speak words to comfort and assure him. “Christa’s a great kid. She’ll be a terrific teen. Everything will be okay.”

But, as much as I look forward to the joy of living life with my own teen in tow, I feel the fear too. I know no family is immune. And I couldn’t bear the grief of suicide a second time.

“Mom, WalMart doesn’t have it. Can we try another store?” Josh’s words pull me from imagining what I don’t want to see.

So on to Target we go. Same scenario, same warm fingers wrapped in mine, same perusal of plasticized products.

“There it is,” says Josh. He points, and I pull the Nerf sword down.

“It’s $15.99. Are you sure you want to pay that much? Maybe there’s a cheaper one.”

“No, Mom. The black and green is cool.”

“There’s a problem. Read the title.”

“Zombie Strike,” says Josh. “Dad will never go for that.”

We decide to buy it anyway—and remove the cardboard packaging before we wrap it. Josh can keep a secret. As long as Dad doesn’t ask what the “Z” stands for, we’ll be fine.

At the checkout, Josh asks for help. The zipper on the pocket that secures his wad of piggy-bank bills is stuck. I dislodge it while the cashier waits.

“Could we try one more store?” asks Josh before he hands over his money. “I’d rather not lie to Dad.”

Though I’ve never enjoyed shopping, I agree.

Three strikes and we’re out, I think, as we enter the store across the street and locate the sought-after section. I see it first, hanging up high. The same sword in green and black.

But beside it is another, with “Only at Toys ‘R Us” emblazoned on its packaging. It’s white and gray, with a cross adorning its black and blue handle.

“That’s the one!” says Josh. “It’s perfect.”

It is. Soon it will belong to our family’s new teen.

Wednesday arrives. The party feels small with my family of four. We’re thankful when evening comes and Grandpa and a friend come to eat homemade strawberry and key-lime pie.

“I already know what this is,” says Christa when Josh hands her his gift. She beams when she pulls off the paper. “But I didn’t think you’d get me one this nice!”

Patiently Christa and Josh sit, as the adults converse, until Christa can no longer resist. She palms her new sword and winks at Josh. “Come on,” she says. “Let’s go.”

Grinning, Josh jumps from his chair and runs to find his weapon of foam.

Fifteen minutes later they return from their front-yard play. Josh, a sweaty mess, sticks his head under the kitchen faucet to wet his hair. We look at him and laugh.

“How was it?” I ask.

“Great!” they say.

That’s when I understand that Josh had gotten it right. He’d picked the perfect present.

Because she’ll need to fight. When the world tells her she’s not enough. When friends may betray. When the weight of sadness seems to last a lifetime. When whispered lies sound like truth and darkness tries to squeeze its way in.

I know what I want to tell her—know what my heart longs to say.

Even when you feel like a wounded warrior waging war with a kid’s weapon, Christa, hold on. During these tumultuous years, know that you’re not alone. We want you here with us.

So wield your weapon well, my teenage daughter. 

Pick up your sword. 

Fix your eyes on the light.

And fight.


  1. Beth, you and your family are such beautiful souls. I'm so glad I got to meet you.

    1. Thank you, Ellen. It was my pleasure to meet you at CCC too.

  2. Replies
    1. Mary, I've always marveled at how you manage to say so much, so powerfully, with so few words. Thank you, my friend.

  3. Dear Beth ~ Such a beautiful story and message. Thanks so much for sharing. Love and blessings to you in Christ.

    1. You're very welcome, Emily. Thanks for taking time to read it. Much love to you too.

  4. Oh wow, Beth. Your words grab me every single time, lulling me into a sonnet of beauty and truth...even in the midst of your fear and heartache. I love you. And I love the pictures! Thanks for sharing your family with us!

    1. Vonda, thank you for such poetic and powerful words. It feels like an exchange--I share story, readers reflect back what they see, and then I understand a little bit more--and it's beautiful. I love you too, my friend.

  5. Tears over this way. Tears of sadness for you and joy at the power of the message you convey.
    So wield your weapon well, my Dear Friend.
    Pick up The Sword.
    Fix your eyes on the Light.
    And fight. Amen

  6. Wow, Sandra. I wasn't expecting the words I wrote to be spoken back to me. I can't even describe how I felt when I read this. Thank you, my friend.

  7. I am sure that Josh and Christa will be best friends forever. The love between them is so touching and so strong. You are truly a n amazing, Mom.

  8. Thanks so much, Jon! I hope they will be. They're going to need each other. Your family has modeled this well.

  9. And every time I read your words, I feel the Heart of God in compassion and grace and hope. Beautiful.

    1. I don't know how I missed seeing your comment, Marcia. But, five weeks later, your words are the perfect encouragement I needed for this day. Thank you for reflecting back to me what comes through.

  10. Dear Mrs. Saadati,
    Thank you. I have been thinking about your family for the past several days, and I decided to check whether you had posted anything here lately. This post and the one about running were exactly what I needed today. I was shocked by how much Josh and Christa have grown up in the past three years (especially Josh, I almost didn't recognize him). I'm so glad that Josh is still the sweet child who used to tell me I was beautiful and make me feel better on the days when I didn't believe it myself. Jenna is still frequently thought about and missed at Southside. Happy Thanksgiving to you and your family! I will be cheering for Christa as she continues to fight.

    1. Delia, I first saw your comment in my e-mail a few days ago, and I can't even begin to tell you how much your words meant. I was so touched--I still am--to know that you would think about Jenna and my family nearly three years after her death. For me the thoughts are daily--it still doesn't seem that long ago--but I'm always surprised when others remember. It's beautiful . . . just to know I'm not alone. So, thank you. Also, thanks for reminding me about what Josh said. That made me smile. I'd forgotten, although I clearly recalled him saying that as soon as I read your words. A five- and six-year-old boy doesn't normally make comments about girls but, yes, he said several times that he thought you (and his sister) were the prettiest ones at the school. He recognizes beauty when he sees it . . . and he's never had a filter. :) In this case, that was a good thing. Thank you for remembering, for sharing the story, and for taking time to write. I'm so grateful that you did. Much love to you, Delia. I'm cheering for you, too, as you enter the homestretch toward graduation.