Day is done, gone the sun…

There are places I remember
All my life though some have changed
Some forever not for better
Some have gone and some remain
All these places have their moments
With lovers and friends I still can recall
Some are dead and some are living
In my life I’ve loved them all

(lyrics from In My Life
attributed to John Lennon)

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(my father-n-law, 1942–An enlisted man who eventually was charged with the care of B-52s / stationed in England during much of the war)

I don’t know if you have ever attended the funeral service for either a current or perhaps long passed member of our armed forces….

I had not.

Oh I had seen the countless individual tributes as well as the way too soon and excruciatingly painful farewells endured by families across this great Nation of ours…those funerals and services caught in the headlines or in the papers, or in the news…victims of the countless wars and conflicts which have plagued this land of ours…
or perhaps they were merely the victims of the ambiguous passage of time…

Those solomon yet heart wrenching ceremonies where the smartly dressed and impeccably precise service members slowly and resolutely perform the age old necessary, yet painfully dreaded, task—
the final task afforded all members of the service…

That being the final overseeing and demonstrative act of respect freely given to one of their own.

It matters not whether these current young men and woman of service know the person for whom they have come as acting military representatives.
It matters not if they know the grieving families.
What matters is that they come…

As the two young Airmen waited, at full attention and salute, that already hot Spring Sunday afternoon..
waiting at the freshly dug deep hole, in the heavy red Georgia clay…
waiting with a fixed anticipation for the approaching casket of their comrade…
the silence was palpable, broken only by the muffled sniffles offered by those falling tears.

Slowly and painstakingly borne on the shoulders of grandsons, who are now the same age if not older of this once proud soldier, is a man who was simply known to them as “Papa.”
They knew he fought, but that was all.
His generation was not one to dwell on what had been…
There were not the stories of exploits or adventure..
merely that a job had been done…
that was all.

Many volunteered long before our Nation was involved.
Perhaps they sensed it would not be long…
that the all-call would soon be sounded.
The choice had not been for a career of service..
Life simply had worked out that way.

They went with no expectations…
They had learned from the prior war, the war touted to end all wars,
that glamour was not to be found in the battles of man.
Men had returned home, if they returned at all, broken.

They simply knew that now, at this crossroads of time,
that it was merely a matter of right verses wrong, good verses bad.
They went to make things right.

Today we have lost that sense of right verses wrong, good verses bad…
as we so often find ourselves drowning in the details.
The lines are blurred as the sides are skewed.
The distinctions between the good verses the bad have been lost.
We no longer seem to know our direction nor purpose or of that which is of
right or wrong.

This is not to say that war and fighting are just or right.
No war is just.
Yet it is in the end goal in which justice lies.
Freedom verses tyranny
Democracy verses oppression

They were not perfect individuals.
They were young, energetic yet flawed…
but they were ready and equally willing…
To do what was not particularly wanted or desired,
but rather to do that which was needed and necessary.

This was a time before the knowledge of PTSD or of the aftermath of trauma to the psyche.
These men and woman saw things, smelled things, heard things, did things…
that would haunt them for a lifetime.
Just as those who who have gone on since…have equally suffered,
Yet it was with this generation that those secrets were to remain..
to be held silently close and not to be freely divulged.

It was rarely spoken of once it was all over.
A job had to be done,
it was done,
and now it was over…
that was that….

They came home, often broken within,
but went on with life without looking back.
Lives grew, families grew…
as lessons were lost with time…

The two young Airmen this warm April Sunday afternoon had come to do their job,
their duty.
After the final Amen was breathlessly whispered…
Silently, yet in precise mirrored rhythm,
a flag was removed from a lone casket.

Over and over, tightly folded,
pure white gloves meticulously went about their task.
Creases were reverently straightened as a final salute was offered.
A lone solider turns then kneels with flag held tightly to his chest.

He kneels before my husband, a living mirror of the man now in the casket.
“On behalf of the President of the Untied States…”

It matters not of ones political affiliation.
It matters not whether one voted for said president…
What matters is that a timeless act is playing out…
That others may see and know of the sacrifices made by those who have gone before.

War is now mocked while our soldiers belittled.
Respect is withheld…
As a Nation now turns upon itself.

The number of the grateful who can understand are shrinking
as the number of those who served shrinks ever still.
Selflessly, patriotically, willingly…
they gave, he gave,
they served, he served.

There are those who will now say that patriotism is a lie
There is no justice in defense.
And there are no answers to be found in aggression.

But had this generation not acted as they had…
Had this generation, this greatest of all generations, not risen to
an anticipated need…
Our lives, both yours and mine, would be vastly different today…

With trembling heart, yet resolute acceptance, a son’s hands receives the flag
so lovingly offered.
Received and accepted on behalf of a man who had not been perfect,
who had not been proud but
who simply did what he thought was right for those of us who
he had no idea would reap the reward of his “gift”
A gift he never considered to be a gift.

His gift, his legacy, his memory will continue on…
through the lives of both his children as well as grandchildren.
Whereas the life of a once breathing and living human being…
that of a soldier, a husband, a father, a grandfather, a businessman, is now silenced…
His gift to all us continues on…

It is to be found not only in the aching hearts of a family
who remains broken, picking up the pieces…
yet rather it remains, as it is found, in a meticulously folded piece of cloth.
A piece of cloth he was so very proud to fly.

Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.

Fading light, dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
From afar, drawing nigh, falls the night.

Thanks and praise, for our days,
‘Neath the sun, ‘neath the stars, neath the sky;
As we go, this we know, God is nigh.

Sun has set, shadows come,
Time has fled, Scouts must go to their beds
Always true to the promise that they made.

While the light fades from sight,
And the stars gleaming rays softly send,
To thy hands we our souls, Lord, commend.

Have a good life

“Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans.”
Allen Saunders

“The ultimate lesson all of us have to learn is unconditional love, which includes not only others but ourselves as well.”
Elisabeth Kübler-Ross

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(cross found in the Rock of Cashel cemetery, County Tipperary, Ireland / Julie Cook / 2015)

Just when you thought you had things situated, straightened out, figured out
and felt you were rolling merrily along feeling in charge, doing a good job of keeping your world in the middle of the road… Life’s little wicked twists and turns come calling, sending you careening out of control.

And so it was when the phone rang late this evening.
It was my godmother calling.
I’ve written about both my “godparents” before.
He is a life long Episcopal priest, Dean Emeritus of the Cathedral in Atlanta where I had grown up.
She, his wife, for the past near 70 years.
He’s soon to turn 93 and she 90.
Their bodies and minds failing in tandem.

I first wrote about my godfather shortly after I started this little blog of mine
as he was the one person in my life who had made the greatest impact–
as he basically saved me from myself when he came into my life…
when I was all of 15 years old.
I won’t retell that long convoluted tale as you can read it elsewhere if you so desire,
(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/forgiveness-one-step-at-a-time/ ) but suffice it to say, he’s meant the world to me.

Whereas he and I have shared the common thread of each being adopted, as I was a teen when we first found one another, we each had, throughout the years, a sea of ups and downs with our perspective internal baggage. We had our hard fraught moments as much healing took place over the years within both of our hearts as we walked the journey together. He taught me about unconditional love and what it truly meant–as I continued testing the depths of that love.

She was often in the shadows.
As the wife of a very busy and well known national cleric, picking up pieces, tending to children, as well as the home front, would have been the assumed standard lot for such a spouse.
Yet she was never one to shrink or hide.
This was a woman who had had a career on Broadway in the 40’s staring in Carousel along with other well known musicals.
She was outspoken and very very sound in her faith, never mincing her words.

She had more than her fair share of input into the shaping of my life.
So much so that my own mother was often intimidated.
She was the type of woman who saw what needed to be done and simply went about doing it, no matter who or what would or could be in the way or problematic.
“No” was not a word that was within her thought process.

So today when the phone rang, I figured it was a call of checking in and touching base.
Perhaps a thank you for the latest goodies I’d sent through the mail…
But no, this was not that type of conversation.

Before we even finished with the opening pleasantries of the “hey, how are yous”– she begins with “the Lord told me that He wants me to call and tell the people in my life what they have meant to me…so…I want you to know how grateful I am for…how precious you are to me…how much I thank you…how I want you to know…”

“WHOA—what are you saying???!!!” I fumble over the words.
“Well, I’ll be 90 soon, I don’t have much time left….
“WHOA—let’s not rush things shall we….” I hear myself stammering.
“Now let’s not put the cart before the horse shall we…” I continue trying to stop where this conversation is going…for all sorts of reasons–

She continues on with her “speech” when suddenly her mind takes the conversation elsewhere, in a totally different direction and tone… which is what’s more telling to me than her kind and endearing words–
Time is truly of the essence is it not…in this world that is…

Whereas my Godmother is sound in her faith and has no doubts, no regrets, as she continues pushing forward despite failing body and mind, living to hear His word and obeying those words to the very end—I fear there are not many of us who are as determined to do His very bidding up to that last breath we each have on this earth—or perhaps it’s more about having the courage to do so.

And maybe that’s it–
Courage, freedom, determination…

What is it that gives us, offers us, the courage to do and say the words God urges us to speak…. as well as giving us the “why”… as to why we are to speak certain words in the first place… and then there is the “when”… when are we to speak them and to whom.

When do we give ourselves the freedom to speak such words?
And what is it that sets our determination to do all of the above—
is it our health, our time, our circumstance?

As the conversation finally came to an end, with me most thankful as the difficulty and awkwardness of her words were crushing in on my heart, she put my godfather on the phone who proceeds to tell me he loves me and to “have a good life”

Oooooo, this is NOT the conversation I wanted to hear this evening.
Often within adopted folks there is a tiny voice buried deep within that likes to perpetuate a lie that “you’re not really ever wanted,” so hearing, as well as accepting, such deep and meaningful words, that you matter or are dearly loved, or are precious to someone can be very hard to digest… as you simply feel most unworthy…
Plus this whole signing off as if I’ll never see them or hear from them again is most unnerving–as it reminds me that none of us are guaranteed a thing in this world, especially not time…that precious commodity we so often take for granted…

So when this once prolific writer, speaker, preacher, religious leader who just so happens to be my “godpoppa” utters his parting words in an almost singsong sort of fashion
“Have a good life”
I’m like a deer in headlights…frozen in the moment.

Have a good life….
Who says that???!!
An almost 93 year old man who has spent the last couple of years fighting with his mind as it tries to shut down, and he’s hellbent to hold on…

This as I head to Dad’s today which is a whooooole ‘nuther ballgame–

So here’s to life…
Here’s to the end of life…
Here’s to how we choose to live that life, up to the very end…
and here’s to love….

May we all “have a great life…”

“If you love me, you will keep my commandments.
John 14:15

Passages of time and the sharing of sacred scripture

“Time it was
And what a time it was, it was
A time of innocence
A time of confidences
Long ago it must be
I have a photograph
Preserve your memories
They’re all that’s left you”

― Paul Simon

Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me
all the days of my life,
and I shall dwell in the house of the Lord
forever.

Verse 6 Psalm XXIII

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(an old Jewish book of prayer, opened to the XXIII Psalm / Julie Cook / 2014)

It had all the makings of a most odd union of two very different people.

One, a young tomboy who had a bad habit of saying whatever came to mind, often letting her emotional heart lead when a thoughtful mind would have sufficed. A zealot when it came to her Christian faith and a bit of a rabble rouser, yet one who actually played it safe and obeyed all the rules.

The other was more girly and most reserved, often painfully conscious of words and actions. She was often reluctant in her acknowledgment of her Jewish faith. Her family was multilayered consisting of step parents, 5 half brothers and sisters and several step siblings. More worldly and one who enjoyed a good time.

What drew them together?
What kept them together?

Fast forward over 4 decades.

Sitting in the ornately fashioned sanctuary, feeling a bit out of place and silently waiting for the service to begin, my mind began to wander in and out of the past 41 years and as to what had actually brought me to this particular place today. The delicate sounds of the piano soft and soothing.
Unexpectedly the weight of all the previous years, with all of their enormity, and all their stories, their secrets, their joy, their sorrows, came tumbling forward as I sat in silence feeling suddenly very very tired.

The Rabbi entered leading the family to their places. I watched a fragile figure, lead by husband and followed by daughters, take her solemn place.
A time of good-bye.
Had we not played this role before?
First almost 30 years ago for me, then years later for her, and now, we were gathering once again.

The last time I walked this aisle was 30 years ago during a wedding as I lifted a young confident bride’s trailing gown up the steps. I had worn the same dress 3 years prior as the roles were then reversed.
I grew up attending church 2 miles north on the same street.
What is it that separates us?
Likes and dislikes?
or
Miles, family, and doctrine?

The Cantor began the prayers.
A mournful and deeply reverent form of prayer as a profound moaning and yearning of the heart reverberated off the masterfully carved roundels along the ornately decorated ceiling.
Our moms both now gone.
Once it was agreed we’d trade them, one for the other.
I wanted the sweet one, she wanted the sassy one.
Now our trade is all but a forgotten long ago secret shared between two young angst ridden teens.

She was the stoical one, I was the emotionally driven one.
For good or bad, time and circumstances have reversed those roles.
Yet today we are both caught in the tide of emotions as life, age and death collide chaotically becoming one massive wave of what will soon be but a memory and moment of time passing.
Our time once passed painfully slowly as we yearned to grow up quickly.
Now time passes painfully quickly as we yearn to live more slowly–savoring and holding each sweet morsel of life tenderly before it filters through our fingers.

The differences are obvious.
They always will be.
The similarities however are found in the lamenting prayer from a mourning heart to the God of all of creation as we each watch the other learning to say good-bye . . .

The Lord is my shepherd; I shall not want.
He maketh me to lie down in green pastures: he leadeth me beside the still waters.
He restoreth my soul: he leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death, I will fear no evil: for thou art with me; thy rod and thy staff they comfort me.
Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies: thou anointest my head with oil; my cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life: and I will dwell in the house of the Lord for ever.

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