Wordcount: 437 words
Tagline: A girl wrestles with the loss of her father.
Bacon sandwiches always reminded her of her dad.
Not because they were her favorite food, but because they were his – and they were the last thing her father had made the two of them before heading off to war.
“Be strong, love,” he’d told her, hugging her tightly; sandwiches long since finished. “I need you to watch over Momma and Caleb and Chrissy for me.”
“I’ll fight for them, just like you fight,” she’d responded, her voice in that moment sounding so much older and stronger than it really was.
Her father shook his head and kneeled down to her level, his lips smiling though his eyes could not. “Fight harder, Jen. Fight harder.”
Over time, those sacred words became her personal mantra; the phrase she repeated to herself countless times each day. The only words that kept her moving, focused and strong.
When she became overwhelmed from caring for her rambunctious twin siblings while her Mom was at work, providing for the family in the way her father no longer could, she fought harder, and never once complained.
While she was forced to stay home and on the sidelines as her friends all moved on with their lives, she fought harder and pushed away the loneliness by making new friends: Harry Potter, Lucy Pevensie, and Frodo Baggins, to name a few.
As hollow birthdays came and went, she fought harder, and smiled despite the empty place at the table.
And when that horrible, wretched man in the military garb knocked on their door and ruined their lives forever, she fought harder and never cried.
Not at his funeral, with the dozens of darkly dressed churchgoers wishing their condolences with kind but awkward voices, and arms full of casseroles.
Not at school when flowers, cards and condolences were quietly given, or afterwards, when each student was required to write an essay on the most inspiring person he or she’d ever known.
Not at Christmas as they pulled out decorations and discovered that his homemade stocking had been chewed apart by mice.
Not even at her 15th birthday party as her friends eagerly discussed driver’s licenses, and she realized that the man she’d once thought would teach her to drive never would.
She fought, and she fought hard – until her father’s birthday arrived that year, and in honor of the occasion, her mother made bacon sandwiches.
It was then that she cried.
And it was then that she realized . . .
Even the strongest and fiercest of soldiers grieve for their comrades lost in battle.
Because fighting strengthens the heart, but compassion keeps it alive.