remembrances

Patriotism is supporting your country all the time,
and your government when it deserves it.

Mark Twain

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(the flag I fly at home / Julie Cook / 2015)

Today Americans will pause in order to celebrate Memorial Day.

A day many assume was put on the calendar in order to mark the unofficial start of summer.

It’s a day for day’s off…
for family gatherings,
for picnics,
for cookouts,
for ballgames…
and basic idyllic enjoyment.

However it would behoove us, on this unofficial day of all things festive,
to recall the original intent of Memorial Day…

Originally it was not a day set aside to commemorate the opening of the seasonal door to summer…
rather it was a day set aside for Americans to remember the thousands of lives lost,
as well as the thousands of bodies forever broken, during America’s darkest days of the Civil War.

It was originally referred to as Decoration Day.

Over the years, Memorial Day has taken on a life of its own.
It has become a day of celebration, an excuse for a party, a shift in the seasons, …

Yet as we celebrate, we must also remember…

We remember the countless numbers of men and woman who have served
and continue to serve in our armed forces.

We remember the lives taken.
The sacrifices made.
The limbs lost.
The souls shattered
The minds altered.
The hearts broken
And the children who have grown up and continue growing up never
knowing the parent who was called to offer the ultimate gift
to their fellow man.

So as you work in the yard,
fire up that grill,
play in the surf,
build that sand castle,
watch that ball game,
sip that lemonade,
eat that hot dog,
and just enjoy a special moment to be lazy…
Offer up a thank you…
to those men and woman who have given, and continue giving, their all…
allowing you to say “hello summertime”

“For whoever wishes to save his life will lose it,
but whoever loses his life for My sake, he is the one who will save it.

Luke 9:24

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.

Heeeellllloooo

No matter what people tell you, words and ideas can change the world.
Robin Williams

mrs-doubtfire

The world now seems deeply less funny with the recent tragic death of Robin Williams.

Firstly, as you probably know, I am not one to ogle and fane over the likes of Hollywood. I do not care for the rag tag magazines which so love to follow the infamous lives of those members of tinseltown, or the music industry, around like hungry dogs, nor do I care to watch such television programs, which provide the windows of voyeurism into the often twisted lives of those in the field of entertainment, as there is just too much in this world which needs doing besides “following” those society pathetically deems “famous” or infamous, the distinction is yours to decide. . .

Secondly, I do not care for comedians, particular standup comedians as their base of humor, to me, is simply not funny.
I am not a fan of the supposed humor which is steeped in raunchy and vile language–I don’t need to hear the “F” word over and over again as a form of humor. I do not enjoy watching these onstage individuals vie for the laughter of others as he or she proceeds to make sarcastic fun of everyone and everything. . .And as tragic and as sad as life seems to be today, it appears as if there is nothing which remains sacred or reserved, or hands off to these comic individuals–which I find to be the terrible making of our lives into that which is “less than.”

To me, none of that is humor.
The use of the vile and crude, while taking cheap shots at the lives of others, to me again is a poor excuse for funny.

I did however enjoy Robin Williams as he could make me laugh until I cried.

And yes, I am aware he had his crude, crass and vile takes on comedy– and no, I did not care to watch those particular standup moments of his—but I did, however, watch what he did so well— and that was to bring smiles to the faces of the young and old as only Robin Williams could do. He knew he could forego the crass, the vile and the cheap and still bring smiles to the faces of those who desperately needed to smile–and perhaps it was his own depth of inner turmoil which was his impetus to that intuition.

Watching him interact with children was a joy. He could immediately forget being the “grown up” and engage with a child on their own tiny level making that child feel magically important and special. The work he did for St Jude’s Children Hospital was tremendously heartwarming as he would light up the eyes of a child who’s face was ashen and deathly pale, who’s hair had long since fallen out and who’s sunken eyes gave the perception of immanent death–yet Robin Williams would work his magic and suddenly there was a twinkle in that sunken eye as life suddenly reappeared, where just moments before, there was none.

His concern for our military, especially those soldiers who came home broken of both body and spirit was tireless. He recognized the sacrifices made for our freedom as he paid homage to such. He respected the men and woman who, suddenly missing limbs, sight and mind, felt as if there was now nothing remaining worthy of respect–Robin Williams worked selflessly to remind them that many do care and that these broken individuals do matter and that their respect remains intact even if their bodies do not.

Movies such as Hook in which Robin played the grown up, stressed out, workaholic and jaded Peter Banning reminded all of us of the importance of maintaing the one on one relationships with our children—of touching base, finding and embracing our deeply buried imaginations and of seeking the hidden places where our own sense of fun and joy still remained.

Yet it was probably his role as Mrs. Doubtfire, the doughty British widow alter ego of a divorced dad, down on his luck, who simply wanted to be with his kids which brought me great delight, laughter and touching joy.

Yes Robin Williams could make us laugh, but he could also make us think. He could disturb us and he could remind us of the importance of life and of what in life was truly important.

However it is now in the wake of his tragically sad suicide that I find myself troubled. I worry that Robin’s choice to end his own life may be seen by those who suffer addictions and battle the life altering heaviness of depression as a sign that sadly things do not get better, that it is all just hopeless and the only way out is death.

Those individuals must know that that is not the case at all.
Hope always remains, as long as we breathe, there is Hope.
But I know how shallow that can sound to one in the midst of the misery.
I know.

I have written on the topic of suicide and the effects it wrecks on a family back in March of 2013 when I addressed the issue of my own brother’s suicide in the post Forgiveness, one step at a time
(https://cookiecrumbstoliveby.wordpress.com/2013/03/11/forgiveness-one-step-at-a-time/)
I don’t wish to rehash a previous post but I do think it important to note that the finality of suicide is a sadly permanent and non retraceable choice which has sweeping and lasting repercussions to those we are left to pick up the pieces. But I get it, I understand that the depressed are not concerned with any of that as they merely want the torment and the suffering to stop.

I also know what it is like to live with years of bitterness over what seemed to me to be a selfish choice as I watched my father spend a lifetime of invisible regret and endless sorrow.

I do not want the life Robin Williams lived, of the joys he brought to others, the gifts he delivered when playing a particular role, the relationships he had with family and friends to be overshadowed by the finality of a single sad choice.

I do not want those who suffer the insidious heavy veil of depression to feel as if all is for naught for if someone like Robin Williams, who was actually proactive with the disease and treatment of mental illness, could not get out from under the crushing weight, then who can. . .his choice must not be seen as the only choice available for those who suffer and hurt.

It is my hope that in the wake of this latest loss and sadness that dialogue may begin as we all look to ways and means to help and support those who suffer mental anguish and addiction. It is our responsibility, as the extended family of humanity, to offer hope to the hopeless, joy to the joyless, freedom to the imprisoned—not to sit by and watch others feel forgotten and alone.

As I stated earlier, there is much in life to be done besides sitting around reading and watching rag tag magazines and shows, rather we all have a responsibility to reach out to all of those around us who are hurting and who suffer the debilitating struggles of mental illness which cause the brokeness of spirit and soul. Yes it is easier to treat the obvious exterior brokeness of bone and body, but it is the internal brokeness of spirit and soul which remains so frustratingly hidden, that we must address head on as real and yet capable indeed of help and of healing.

May we work to heal broken spirits just as hard as we work to heal broken bodies. . .

He heals the brokenhearted
and binds up their wounds.

Psalm 147:3

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