Husband & Wife Articles


 

Love is Stronger than Deployment

The Blessed Sacrament keeps our military family together

By Ashley Kepper

“I’ll see you in the Eucharist.” This message, first sent years ago, captured my heart and attention from 4,500 miles away. My new online friend signed his message with this closing statement on the Ave Maria Singles website every Sunday. While we had never met in person, skyped, or even talked on the phone, I felt an incredibly strong connection in our long-distance courtship. I could never have imagined then the significance that his eucharistic statement would have in my life, now that we are married for three years.

My husband, Jimmy, is a man after God’s own heart, my best friend and protector, the father of my daughter, and a U.S. Navy submariner. When he deploys, our sole form of correspondence is a daily e-mail. During this time, I desperately rely on the graces of the Eucharist to sustain me and keep us connected. There are days in which the only thing that brings me peace is sitting in front of the Blessed Sacrament (day or night) or receiving Jesus at Mass.

My husband sparked in me this deeper love of God and the Eucharist, and for this I am eternally grateful. When he is gone, I call on God the most. These are the times when my heart is stretched and God draws me closer in my walk with him.

I miss my husband especially on Sunday mornings, as I sit in the pew with my toddler and look at the families around me. While we are oceans apart, the Eucharist binds us. The presence of Jesus brings a sense of unity in my marriage and family, in which we are strengthened and we grow as a couple, despite the physical distance between us.

My husband leads the onboard prayer service each Sunday he is at sea, but there is no Mass, no Eucharist and no chaplain on his submarine. I offer my Communion for him, as I know he desperately needs and longs for Jesus’ body, blood, soul and divinity. He makes an act of spiritual communion, in which he connects and unites with God and me.

When discussing Navy life and all that it entails, other women often say to me, “I could never do that.” The reality is that I do not do anything alone. God calls me to serve and support my husband, and he gives me the grace to get through any and all trials that come our way. It’s my job to get on my knees and beg for the grace needed every day. He will give it to me, as long as I am open to it.

Many people have a misconception of life upon a sailor’s return. We see media pictures of families reunited after an extended period of separation sharing joyful tears, smiles, hugs and kisses. Yet there is typically an adjustment period following the initial emotional reunion. Increasing my complete dependence on God while my husband is at sea enables me to continue more easily adjust to “normal” life upon his return and recognize him as the head of our home. Confession is absolutely essential in preventing my heart from hardening, particularly while I am holding down the fort at home.

I’m not saying that this life is for everyone or that the trials of separation are easily overlooked. The military life, like any life, comes with unique challenges that are faced and overcome through prayer, a close relationship with God and regular reception of the sacraments.

While each deployment is unique, the sacraments remain my constant source of strength for facing life’s challenges. I often do not know where my husband is, or the exact date of his return. Yet we still connect in the way we did at the start of our relationship, when I am at Mass and see him in the Eucharist.

Ashley Kepper and her husband, Jimmy, live in St. Marys, Ga., with their 2-year-old daughter.