"What if you die overseas and I'm not there," my mom said when I told her I had joined the Marines. I laughed and said that even if I were a civilian and died in the United States she most likely wouldn't be there. Still, she worried that she would one day get a call saying that I’d been killed or was dying far from home. My mother worried for nothing. Instead, over a decade later, I was the one who got the dreaded phone call.
"Mom's not expected to live much longer," my younger brother said. "You might want to come home." I had just arrived in Okinawa and had to fly back to mainland Japan. As I waited another three days for the next plane back to the United States, I began to wonder if I'd make it home in time.
Two years earlier, when my mother was diagnosed with breast cancer, my brother built a room onto his house so that she could live with him and his family. The past few months had been especially hard on them. The constant care, the weekly trips for the chemotherapy treatments to a Dallas hospital, two hours each way, the anxiety of watching her get worse, had worn them down.