zen to hell and maybe one day back

“I realize as never before that the Lord is gentle and merciful;
He did not send me this heavy cross until I could bear it.
If He had sent it before,
I am certain that it would have discouraged me…
I desire nothing at all now except to love until I die of love.
I am free, I am not afraid of anything,
not even of what I used to dread most of all…
a long illness which would make me a burden to the community.
I am perfectly content to go on suffering in body and soul for years,
if that would please God.
I am not in the least afraid of living for a long time;
I am ready to go on fighting.”

St. Therese of Lisieux, p. 122
An Excerpt From
The Story of a Soul


(a lovely look at The Highlands Botanical Garden’s trail at Lindenwood Lake /
Julie Cook / 2021)

Close your eyes.
Breathe out slowly.
Feel the weight lifting…
ahhh the zen of life….HA!

Today’s image is that of a zenful moment.

And yet, there is no such thing of zen and life–
the two are simply incompatible.

We stepped away from life for a few days, headed northward about 2 hours toward
the North Carolina mountains…taking a belated anniversary get-a-way.

38 years of wedded bliss (cough cough) needed to be celebrated.
And the particular inn that we wanted to visit only had a first available
room about 2 weeks after the fact, so we took what we could get…
and thus off we went.

This escape came at a time when our nation was / is at a such a juxtaposition.
And yes, there is just oh so much to say…
so much dismay, so much pain, so much sorrow, do much disappointment, so much anger…

I looked forward to tuning out for a couple of days.
But how do you tune out the pain you feel for 13 families who just
lost their children, spouses, siblings because of a president who
is nothing but inept?

If you can do so, you have no empathy in your heart.

I am absolutely seething under the surface.
Disgrace does not speak strongly enough.

How in the world could a president have no clue?

We, the average US citizen, all knew that an attack was imminent,
we all received the notice via our various news outlets.
Heck, I received a push notification.
If I got it— if I get it…how come the President didn’t and still doesn’t?

An attack was coming and yet he sat back and basically waited.

So it appears that the deaths of those remaining service members
closing out our stay in Afghanistan could have been readily and easily avoided.
Throw in the 90 billion dollars worth of American war equipment that has been abandoned–
all of which could have been readily evacuated…
had there been a cohesive plan….but there was no such plan.

A plan.

As a longtime educator, I totally get the concept of a cohesive plan.
I know all too well that how you finish is just as important as how you begin.
And yet sadly this administration does not comprehend such.

Stand down from a lengthy occupation…stand down from being in a place
much longer than we ever should have been…yes, by all means, stand down…
but to stand down without precision, order, or a well calculated plan…
well even we simpletons, call that pure negligence.

So off we went Saturday on our little trip all the while Afghanistan
swirled within both our thoughts… a sick heaviness lingered in the pit
of my stomach.
13 American service men and women were killed needlessly.
ABSOLUTLEY NEEDLESSLY!!

Add to this the hundreds of Americans, their Afghani partners, US babies,
and US military service dogs who are all now stuck behind enemy lines…
Yes– left stranded, Jen Psaki…as in stuck in harms way…no thanks to
our President.

Yep, we little people actually comprehend this notion…we call that stranded.
You can’t sugarcoat stranded.

And you can’t sugarcoat what will happen to those left behind.
Think torture, abuse and twisted delight in the demise of any
human or animal associated with the Americans…
but we don’t like to think about such…we don’t like the uncomfortable…
we don’t like that which makes us feel out of sorts.

Explain being out of sorts and uncomfortable to the families of those
Americans who are now hurting today over tremendous loss.

I will be the first to tell you that I agree with the fact that the
length of time we have spent in Afghanistan has been well past its prime.
Pulling out certainly needed to be, however, the manner in which we pulled out
should have been paramount.

Start strong, end strong.

Oh there’s just so much to chat about isn’t there?
However, today, time does not permit those lengthy sort of conversations.

We’ll look at masks, mandates and Covid dilemmas tomorrow.

And of course we’re coming up on 9-11…
so much to say, so little time.

Stand up my friends.
Time is not on our side.

I’m baaaaack

“The glory of God is man fully alive,
and the life of man is the vision of God.”

St. Irenaeus


(a willet in the surf /Rosemary Beach / Julie Cook / 2021)

We got home yesterday from our week away and I’ll share more about our
adventure with the Mayor and Sheriff at the beach… soon…
just as soon as I get alllll these clothes washed.

My last post was about the homecoming for Sgt. Rob Holloway’s as he
and his wife returned home to Carrollton after months in two
different hospitals…this following his having been shot in the
wee hours of April 12th during a high speed chase.

Rob and Stephanie got home Wednesday…they were to spend a few days home
before heading back to Atlanta to begin a transition period at Pathways
which is a program to help Rob learn how to manage his daily routines
while getting back to “normal” as best as possible.

However on Thursday, Rob began running a fever.
The Hospital told Stephanie to get him back to Atlanta ASAP
where he was placed back in ICU.

He has since received IV fluids and antibiotics…
and is reportedly feeling better.

Because bullet fragments remain lodged in Rob’s brain and due to having the
reconstructive skull surgery, the risk of meningitis remains high.

So will you please join me as we offer up prayers for Rob and his family…
as we also pray for all our men and women in blue, as well as for their families…
those members of our various law enforcements who give their all for us….

“The Creator of the universe awaits the prayer of one poor little person
to save a multitude of others, redeemed like her at the price of His Blood.”

St. Therese of Lisieux

monkeys throwing nuts

“The Destiny of Man is to unite, not to divide.
If you keep on dividing you end up as a collection of monkeys throwing nuts
at each other out of separate trees.”

T.H. White, The Once and Future King


(Born in the USA album cover)

Long ago and far away, I was once a ripe and tender 25 year old teacher.

This was about my third year teaching and I was teaching high school art,
art history and science of all things…
(they were shy a science teacher that year and I was the lucky one tapped to take that on)

Always having a deep and abiding love for all things Renaissance Art,
I got the bright idea that I should take a group of students and adults on an educational tour
of the art capital’s of Europe for a few weeks during summer break. We would go to the great museums
and the architecturally rich historic treasures of about 7 countries.

Great ideas do not always turn out so great…but that’s a different story
for another day.

I’ve written about this bright idea before and won’t bore us today over the tales of
my first and last major trip of responsibility with teenagers abroad—
however there is one moment that I vividly recall and
it seems rather applicable to share given our current divisional crisis taking place
in this nation of ours.

Did you catch the Super Bowl Sunday evening?
Maybe you saw the new Jeep commercial featuring Bruce Springsteen?

But before I go on with that thought, let me back up to the tale of that 25 year old teacher.

When I took that group of folks, both young and old on that trip,
I was newly married and found myself rather homesick half way into the trip.
Probably just homesick for a lot of reasons.

We had made it to Venice and our tour guide took us that evening to a disco as he
thought the kids would love to see an Italian style disco.

I was just ho-hum about it all until the DJ began playing the song Born In the USA.
One of the hallmark songs by “the Boss.”
Springsteen was the epitome of Americana.
Or so it seemed back in those heady day’s of the early 1980’s.

Hearing his song blaring throughout the disco, we all immediately took to the dance floor,
those in our group who were in their 60’s along with my young teen charges.
All singing united, gleefully proud to be Americans.

Yet sadly over the years, musicians, actors and entertainers have become more and more vocal
regarding their political leanings—going so far as to expressing vehemence for
anyone who takes a different view of things from their own.

It has become a ‘my view or no view’ mentality within much of the entertainment community.
So much so that even going all the way back to the election of George W. Bush,
many an entertainer, etc, was loudly proclaiming,
practically threatening, the decision to move from the US should Bush win.

Well, he won and yet they all seemed to stay.

Flash forward to this last election…there was once again a rising crescendo of those folks
singing the same old song…”I’m out of here if “he” wins!—this time, he meaning Trump.

Bruce Springsteen announced during the previous election that if Trump won,
the Boss would be moving to Australia.

Well, the election turned out in the Boss’s favor—so he could stay in the US, making his
big US dollars.

And so now Mr. Springsteen has the audacity to star in, as well as narrate, a Jeep ad—
an ad for a vehicle that screams Americana…it was an ad that oozed with the notion
that we may now all be able to be united…because we all know that liberal democrats unite
while conservative republicans obviously divide.

So… it really doesn’t seem that the Boss truly represents us as Americans…
Sadly, he has drawn a line in the sand and half of this country, it appears, is on the other side of his line…
his line and the line of most of our Nation’s leadership, entertainers, and sports figures
has smugly excluded one half of these ‘united’ states…

Something sounds quite divisive about all this new unity….

I appeal to you, brothers and sisters, in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ,
that all of you agree with one another in what you say and that there be
no divisions among you, but that you be perfectly united in mind and thought.

1 Corinthians 1:10

put a fork in it!

“Unless you have been very, very lucky, you have undoubtedly experienced
events in your life that have made you cry.
So unless you have been very, very lucky, you know that a good,
long session of weeping can often make you feel better,
even if your circumstances have not changed one bit.”

Lemony Snicket, Horseradish


(a festive butter turkey / Julie Cook / 2020)

I trust everyone had a nice Thanksgiving yesterday…
no matter what it may have looked like.

Ours was odd and quiet.

Over the past two weeks, my husband and I have had our fair share of tests that were
both positive and negative.
And since we really didn’t know which way was really up or down, we opted to forego the
annual family adventure to Savannah with both the Mayor and Sherrif.

And so I mourned for a good full day…
stewing in my self-indulgence of pity for not being able to be a family together…

And then, just like that, I picked myself up from wallowing and rolled up my sleeves and started cooking.

I must remember that there are so many who have lost loved ones this year, who have
lost jobs, who have lost a sense of peace and well-being… pandemic or not…
emptiness seems to be spreading itself far and wide.

So when in doubt, cook.

Cooking Thanksgiving for two is comprised of all the same components, just on a
somewhat smaller scale.
Being busy in the kitchen is cathartic…it always has been.

As for picking up this peculiar virus despite all attempts of being careful, has us baffled.
But such is the life for us all during a time of pandemic.
My husband was never really “sick”.
I had a sinus infection, but I can have those with or without a pandemic…
so go figure.

Either way, I knew/know that the Mayor and Sherrif were /are where I want to be…
because anywhere they are, I definitely want to be.

In fact, I bought that butter turkey for the Mayor.
She’s like her grandmother in that she can pick up a ball of butter and
be quite content.

I was looking forward to wandering those Spanish moss-lined streets holding
a little hand or two.
I had actually done some research and had located my great, great, great
grandfather’s house in Savannah.

It still stands and, like many houses in this most historic city, it has been
refurbished and is currently a private residence.
I had wanted us to all go find it together.

Instead, we are here in the midst of an arduous process of packing up house.
Seems there will be a move in our future come mid-January.

Ever since my husband retired, for the past two years, we’ve talked about moving.
“Downsizing” we brilliantly announced to no one but the cats.
We have no family here but the two of us, four if you count the cats, so it seemed
to make sense.

And so I blame our son.
He laid these seeds a few months back when he had us go look at houses.
They want to eventually move…of which I hope they can get out of Atlanta…
I just don’t think he figured we’d go on first…
but what we explained is that time is not so much on our side as it is on his.
So we’d blaze the trail and they could follow suit.

And yet here it is during a pandemic as I now find myself waking up each morning
wondering what in the heck was I thinking!?

Let me just cut my arm open and pour in the salt —as that seems to be pretty much
on par with this self-induced burden.

Aren’t we all seeking security and comfort during these trying times and yet
I’m packing up my world and taking it on the road?

Oh well.

Time to be rolling up my sleeves, again.

Many of us are ready to say good-bye and good ridence to this year of 2020…
but one thing I’ve learned in life…do not be so quick to wish your life away.
Do not assume that 2021 will be better.
We hope it will, we pray it will, but we simply don’t know.

So we must learn to be content with each day as it comes.
We are not guaranteed tomorrow and yesterday has come and gone.
It is simply the here and now that is ours.
And it is up to us how we deal with it.

May we deal well.

Therefore do not worry about tomorrow,
for tomorrow will worry about itself.
Each day has enough trouble of its own.

Matthew 6:34

refuge found in a memory

“The Lord manifests Himself to those who stop for some time in peace and humility of heart.
If you look in murky and turbulent waters, you cannot see the reflection of your face.
If you want to see the face of Christ, stop and collect your thoughts in silence,
and close the door of your soul to the noise of external things.”

St. Anthony of Padua


(a statue to Saint Anthony in the small chapel of St. Blasiuskirche, Salzburg, Austria / Julie Cook / 2012)

When I first read the quote that I’ve opted to use today,
I was immediately transported to a different time and place…
and to a previous post.

It was 2012 and I had recently retired from 31 years of teaching—I was also preparing
to embark on an arduous journey with my elderly father…how arduous, I had no idea,
but I knew life was changing and I knew it was not going to be for the better.

My aunt, another friend, and I had all embarked on a bit of an adventure
during that fall of 2012.
It was a wonderful trip which holds some very precious and treasured memories…
especially since my aunt is no longer with us.

Yet during that trip, there were a couple of very special moments that have stayed
near to my heart…and one thing I’ve learned over the years,
adventures offer lessons.

And so I looked back at that original post and found that the serenity that I had experienced
during that adventure, and later in the writing of the post,
I realized that I greatly needed to relive, as well as share, again, that
peaceful gratitude I found one quiet fall afternoon.

And so here is that post from October 2013 about a warm fall afternoon in 2012
in Salzburg, Austria:

The deep groaning and creaking sound of the huge ancient wooden door being pulled open
echoes loudly throughout the small yet cavernous chapel.
It must be the vaulted ceiling helping to carry the sound deep into the hallowed room.
The burning votives cast an otherworldly glow.
There is a lingering scent of incense mixed with the musty dampness.

There is a lone figure, an older woman, kneeling at one of the front pews…
her rosary woven through her fingers, moving ever so slightly,
bead per bead as she silently makes her petitions before the small statue.

I once heard it put that religion was just something for old women and children.
Pity that…as that must mean that older women and children are the only ones
who “get it”…everyone else must be too vain, too prideful, and too arrogant
to truly understand.

My eyes begin to adjust to the lack of lighting as the cool air is a welcomed feeling
against the late afternoon Autumn warmth outside.
I walk slowly, quietly, reverently down the small aisle,
my hand resting on the smooth wooden end cap of each pew, as I make my way to my seat of choice.
I kneel slightly, the genuflection of reverence, before slipping into the pew.

I’m not Catholic but raised Anglican–yet I oddly welcome and greatly appreciate the nuances
of ancient worship–-more than would be expected from my raising.
There is a deep mystery that I believe many in our mainstream churches miss.
This Christianity of ours is an ancient faith but that is too sadly forgotten in this age
of the technologically savvy megachurch.
The ancient components of worship seem lost on those now sitting in stadium type seating waiting,
as if ready for the latest blockbuster to begin,
to be wowed not by participation but by passive viewing.

Despite my pained attempts to muffle my movements,
each step, each rustle of my jacket, causes deep reverberations through this ancient room,
I feel very conspicuous even though just one other person is present.
She never wavers from her intense focus to her prayerful conversation.
She is oblivious to my presence.

I take in my surroundings before dropping to my knees.
The chapel is hundreds of years old as worship here dates back to the 1200s.
Dark wood paneling with cream-colored walls.
Arched vaults line the ceiling with stone columns systematically placed,
acting as supports, creating the aisles throughout the room.
This is not one of the beautifully bright and light Rococoesque churches of Austria
that the tourists clammer to enter in order to view famous paintings,
statues and frescos with ornate altars boasting a multitude of plaster cherubs
heralding glad tidings.
This chapel is small, dark, ancient, and humble.
Perhaps that is why I was drawn inside.

I slip down to my knees as I make the sign of the cross.
I begin my “conversation”—-it is one of thanksgiving and gratitude as a tremendous sense
of warmth and contentment engulfs me.
I then begin my petitions—-not for myself,
but for those I love who are not with me on this particular journey.
After some time, I open my eyes.
How long had I been praying?
I rest in the moment as a tremendous sense of safety and peace washes over me–-it is almost palpable.

Am I a tourist or a pilgrim? I like to think that when I travel, I am a pilgrim.
I want to not merely observe, but rather, I want to partake…
I want to be a part of each moment in time.
I am not here to watch an old Austrian woman in prayer,
watching from the shadows of an ancient chapel as some sort of voyeuristic individual
or as someone viewing animals in an enclosure,
but rather I want to pray beside her to the same God who hears each of our prayers.
I am in communion with her even though she never glances my way.
I want to appreciate this chapel that is a part of her daily life,
wishing I too had such a special and reverent place of retreat.

The history here is so old as countless individuals previously have gathered
here to worship, to seek, to lament, to rejoice.
I slowly rise from my knees slipping out of the pew.
I make my way to the small alter to pick up a fresh votive.
I gently touch the fresh wick to one of the existing burning flames–my hand slightly shakes.
I feel the warm heat against my cheeks rising from the candles.
I place my lit votive in an empty slot silently thanking Saint Anthony
and God for this time of communion with not only them but with this woman
who never seems to notice my presence.

I am grateful.
I slip a few coins into the small metal locked box by the door.
I make my way back outside, into the light.
It almost hurts my eyes as it is now so sunny and bright.
The sounds of the throngs of people on the streets are almost painful to my ears.
This is Oktoberfest, the streets and alleyways are teeming with a sea of people.

For a brief moment, I had a glimpse of the Divine.
I feel different for the encounter.
Changed.
Better.
Not in an arrogant sort of way but more in the way that I have been fortunate
to be privy to something so rich and so special.
I look out at all of the throngs of people reveling in this historic and exciting
city during this raucous time. I slightly smile inward thinking that I hold a special
secret that no one else knows…no one other than that older woman back in the chapel
and myself.

The Church at Angoville

(another re-post D-Day tribute…
May we always remember that the success at the invasion of Normandy,
and the eventual ending of WWII in Europe and later in the Pacific,
was not so much a matter of great men doing certain things great nor of making
great decisions but rather it was the matter of ordinary men and women doing
ordinary things that would become,
in the end, great things that continue to affect us today—
and we are the better for it and are a free people to this day because of those ordinary folks!)

“All my life I made it a matter of principle to tend all soldiers
equally whatever their uniforms could be. I could not say to the Germans:
“You sit there and if you are bleeding to death. I don’t care”

Army Medic Robert Wright


(Église Saint-Côme-et-Saint-Damien d’Angoville-au-Plain..
the humble church at Angonville / Julie Cook / 2018)

Despite it being September 22 it was an unusually cold and blustery day…
or so it seemed for our little group of four from both Georgia and Florida.
However, this was Northern France, just inward from the North Atlantic coast.

The rain came in spurts…sometimes blowing sideways, sometimes merely misting.
The temperature was in the low 50’s but the howling 35 mph gusts made it seem much colder.

Somber weather for a somber day.

Our driver turned the van we were calling home for the day around a sharp corner along
a quiet narrow street as we came to a stop on a gravel drive just aside a large
ancient oak.

We exited the van, with umbrellas in hand, huddling together, as a small group of 5—
the four from Georgia and Florida and one from Holland who now made
Normandy, France his home as we readied ourselves for something that we all
sensed was going to be so much greater than ourselves.

The guide’s name was Mike.
Mike Van Den Dobbelsteen with Bayeux Shuttle Service.
Mike is a Dutchman who has a nearly perfect British accent…
but of course, this particular day was his 12th wedding anniversary…
his wife hails from England which helped to explain his heavy British accent.

His enthusiasm and depth of knowledge regarding history…in particular this history
was immense.

It was still early in our day’s adventure,
although having just come from the German Cemetary in Normandy,
we now found ourselves standing outside the doors of an extremely humble
little stone church.

A church that would be easily overlooked by passerbys.
A church that harkened back to a different time.
A church that was named for two martyrs who had actually been medical doctors.
An odd coincidence given the role this church played during a day that changed
our world’s history.

The beginning of this tiny church dates back to the 11th century, to 1088 to be exact…
but it was what happened in the middle of the 20th century, 9 centuries following the
inception of this church, that actually puts this church on the map of modern history.

As we stood gathered under the large tree shielding us from the cold pelting rain,
my eyes immediately gravitated to the dark granite cross-like marker standing stoically
on the grounds of this seemingly humble French church.

Toccoa.

My uncle and aunt had made Toccoa, Georgia their home for nearly 50 years.
It was in that small northeast Georgia town in which my cousins had spent their
childhood growing up…
Was there some sort of a connection between this tiny town in northwestern France and that
of the North Georgia town bearing that stone cross’s inscription?

Yes.

Yes, there was indeed a connection.

In the early 1940s, Toccoa, Georgia found itself home to the World War II
“Screaming Eagles” paratrooper corps.
E Company to be exact.
E Company was based at Camp Toccoa, a rustic training base located in
northeast Georgia that operated from 1942 through 1945.

It was that same E Company which trained in Toccoa, Georgia that would find itself
falling from the sky on June 6, 1944, into and around the tiny French Village of
Angonville-Au-Plain. A far cry from the north Georgia skies where they had practiced
for this very moment.

The French Village Angoville-au-Plain lies between St-Côme-du-Mont and Vierville,
at the D 913 in Normandy. It is a small village with at its center a small church.
The village was part of DZ (drop zone) D in June the 6th 1944.
Drop zone D was the most southern drop zone of the 1st and 2nd Battalion,
501st PIR (Klondikes) of the 101st Airborne Division.
The first 48 hours after the jump heavy clashes found a place between American
paratroopers and German Fallschirmjäger, which are rather elite German airborne infantry.

By Guido Wilmes
Translation Thijs Groot Kormelink

Mike offered us a briefing regarding the Nazis who had hunkered down in and
around this tiny village as well as the allied airdrop of paratroopers who had
floated out of the sky behind enemy lines…

This was to be the first line of a hoped-for offensive.

“Serg. Jim Cox was fighting at Angoville with 52 Paratroopers.
The shelling by mortars and 88 mm guns were so violent that they decided to rejoin
the command post of Bob Sink.

The area of the church at Angoville changed hands several times.
When the Germans arrived in the village they saw the Red Cross flag at the door of the church.
Noticing that German casualties [that] were lying on the pews together with the paratroopers
[so] they left.
The church protected by the Red Cross remained a heaven [haven] of peace
in the middle of a battle.

(excerpt from a brochure provided by the city of Angoville-Au-Plain/
brackets are my corrections)

The impromptu medical clinic was manned by two American airmen, members of the Toccoa
Screaming Eagles, who had only a month’s worth of medical training between them.
75 badly wounded men, both American and German, were under the care of these two haphazard
medics—
Medic Robert Wright and Private Kenneth Moore.

“Robert Wright and I, said private Kenneth Moore, a stretcher bearer,
were the only once to look after the casualties in the church of Angoville.
In the evening we had got 75 of them.
Our own folk had come to tell us that they could not stay any longer.
So we were left alone with the wounded soldiers.
A German officer soon arrived.
He asked me if I could tend the Germans as well.
We accepted.
During the night the churchyard was the scene of a battle.
Two of our casualties died.
But among those I could tend, none lost their lives.
I tended all sorts of wounds, some were skin-deep but others were more serious
abdominal cases.”

The blood stains, stains that soaked deep into the wooden pews,
remain clearly visible all these 74 years later.

It is said that the two medics would move the more critically wounded to the front of
the church in order to be near the altar of as they wanted these men to
find a sense of peace should this be their last night on earth.

At one point two German soldiers, who had been hiding in the loft of the church, came down a
side set of stairs holding arms high in the air as they attempted to surrender
to these two bewildered American medics.
They told the German soldiers that there was no time for surrender…they needed them to go
out and fetch some fresh water as they needed their help tending to the wounded men.
The German soldiers willingly obliged.

As I type my recollection of this emotional visit with its surreal story,
I feel the warm tears filling my eyes.

There are so many links to a wide array of sites (some I’ve listed below) that can tell
the story of Angoville with greater detail than I can.
Those who are much more knowledgeable than I…

I wish I could somehow convey the tremendous emotions…emotions from humility to gratitude
that now fill me as I try to share and convey this individual tale…an individual story of
duty and humanity that is but one out of thousands of tales during this particular time of madness.

It makes me feel very very small…and given our current days and time…
I think we might all benefit from feeling small.

The fact that two men who fell woefully short in medical training saved all but two
of the men who were entrusted to their care…men from both sides of battle,
all the while behind enemy lines is short of miraculous.

As miraculous was the fact that a mortar came crashing down through the roof of this tiny church’s
ceiling landing in the middle of and sticking with a thud smack dab in the center of
the ancient slate floor…

A mortar that did not explode.

Had it exploded, as it should have, the church would have been leveled and all the men killed…
leaving the village of Angoville as just another forgotten causality of war.

Some say it was the saints Côme and Damien who watched over this motley crew of wounded
soldiers and hapless caregivers.

“What allowed that medic to hold for 72 hours without food and rest?
Wright later explained…”The simple concern of helping other people.
When you do something that is worth doing you don’t think of your own life.”

In 1999 Robert Wright made a pilgrimage back to this tiny church.
He noted that “the church at Angoville will never be on the list of the important
churches to be visited in Europe. Yet however small the building is,
it does not prevent God understanding where hearts and prayer are.
They were many in this place.”

Robert Wright passed away at the age of 89.
His wish was to be buried in the cemetery of the same small church where he
had worked alongside Kenneth Moore to save the lives of 80 men.

His grave is simple and yet speaks volumes in its simplicity.

Today there are only 53 people who remain living in Angoville-Au-Plain.
The local mayor asks those who visit to please remember the importance of this
special place.
I will be sending them a donation…the euros I brought home along with a US monetary donation.

I want to do so because places like Angoville are too important for us to simply allow them to
succumb to the fickleness of time…
because time has an odd way of making us forget what once was while we busy ourselves
so as to not see what will be but rather we allow ourselves to wallow in the current moment
which only hopes to swallow us whole.

There are two stain-glass windows which were installed not long ago which commemorate
the importance of this church.

</a

This will be the first of several tales that I’ll be sharing regarding the big retirement
adventure trip which focuses on the real reason for the trip…that being the visit to
Normandy, France, and the D-Day Memorials…

https://www.rockdalenewtoncitizen.com/news/local/a-veteran-s-story-the-little-church-that-could/article_47f87fc0-5330-554b-8326-4b8cb975a3d9.html

501st Aid Station in the church of Angoville-au-Plain

https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2018/august/28/toccoa-georgia

The Church at Angoville

“All my life I made it a matter of principle to tend all soldiers
equally whatever their uniforms could be. I could not say to the Germans:
“You sit there and if you are bleeding to death. I don’t care”

Army Medic Robert Wright


(Église Saint-Côme-et-Saint-Damien d’Angoville-au-Plain..
the humble church at Angonville / Julie Cook / 2018)

Despite it being September 22 it was an unusually cold and blustery day…
or so it seemed for our little group of four from both Georgia and Florida.
However, this was Northern France, just inward from the North Atlantic coast.

The rain came in spurts…sometimes blowing sideways, sometimes merely misting.
The temperature was in the low 50’s but the howling 35 mph gusts made it seem much colder.

Somber weather for a somber day.

Our driver turned the van we were calling home for the day around a sharp corner along
a quiet narrow street as we came to a stop on a gravel drive just aside a large
ancient oak.

We exited the van, with umbrellas in hand, huddling together, as a small group of 5—
the four from Georgia and Florida and one from Holland who now made
Normandy, France his home as we readied ourselves for something that we all
sensed was going to be so much greater than ourselves.

The guide’s name was Mike.
Mike Van Den Dobbelsteen with Bayeux Shuttle Service.
Mike is a Dutchman who has a nearly perfect British accent…
but of course, this particular day was his 12th wedding anniversary…
his wife hails from England which helped to explain his heavy British accent.

His enthusiasm and depth of knowledge regarding history…in particular this history
was immense.

It was still early in our day’s adventure,
although having just come from the German Cemetary in Normandy,
we now found ourselves standing outside the doors of an extremely humble
little stone church.

A church that would be easily overlooked by passerbys.
A church that harkened back to a different time.
A church that was named for two martyrs who had actually been medical doctors.
An odd coincidence given the role this church played during a day that changed
our world’s history.

The beginning of this tiny church dates back to the 11th century, to 1088 to be exact…
but it was what happened in the middle of the 20th century, 9 centuries following the
inception of this church, that actually puts this church on the map of modern history.

As we stood gathered under the large tree shielding us from the cold pelting rain,
my eyes immediately gravitated to the dark granite cross-like marker standing stoically
on the grounds of this seemingly humble French church.

Toccoa.

My uncle and aunt had made Toccoa, Georgia their home for nearly 50 years.
It was in that small northeast Georgia town in which my cousins had spent their
childhood growing up…
Was there some sort of a connection between this tiny town in northwestern France and that
of the North Georgia town bearing that stone cross’s inscription?

Yes.

Yes, there was indeed a connection.

In the early 1940’s, Toccoa, Georgia found itself home to the World War II
“Screaming Eagles” paratrooper corps.
E Company to be exact.
E Company was based at Camp Toccoa, a rustic training base located in
northeast Georgia that operated from 1942 through 1945.

It was that same E Company which trained in Toccoa, Georgia that would find itself
falling from the sky on June 6, 1944, into and around the tiny French Village of
Angonville-Au-Plain. A far cry from the north Georgia skies where they had practiced
for this very moment.

The French Village Angoville-au-Plain lies between St-Côme-du-Mont and Vierville,
at the D 913 in Normandy. It is a small village with at its center a small church.
The village was part of DZ (drop zone) D in June the 6th 1944.
Drop zone D was the most southern drop zone of the 1st and 2nd Battalion,
501st PIR (Klondikes) of the 101st Airborne Division.
The first 48 hours after the jump heavy clashes found a place between American
paratroopers and German Fallschirmjäger, which are rather elite German airborne infantry.

By Guido Wilmes
Translation Thijs Groot Kormelink

Mike offered us a briefing regarding the Nazis who had hunkered down in and
around this tiny village as well as the allied airdrop of paratroopers who had
floated out of the sky behind enemy lines…

This was to be the first line of a hoped-for offensive.

“Serg. Jim Cox was fighting at Angoville with 52 Paratroopers.
The shelling by mortars and 88 mm guns were so violent that they decided to rejoin
the command post of Bob Sink.

The area of the church at Angoville changed hands several times.
When the Germans arrived in the village they saw the Red Cross flag at the door of the church.
Noticing that German casualties [that] were lying on the pews together with the paratroopers
[so] they left.
The church protected by the Red Cross remained a heaven [haven] of peace
in the middle of a battle.

(excerpt from a brochure provided by the city of Angoville-Au-Plain/
brackets are my corrections)

The impromptu medical clinic was manned by two American airmen, members of the Toccoa
Screaming Eagles, who had only a month’s worth of medical training between them.
75 badly wounded men, both American and German, were under the care of these two haphazard
medics—
Medic Robert Wright and Private Kenneth Moore.

“Robert Wright and I, said private Kenneth Moore, a stretcher bearer,
were the only once to look after the casualties in the church of Angoville.
In the evening we had got 75 of them.
Our own folk had come to tell us that they could not stay any longer.
So we were left alone with the wounded soldiers.
A German officer soon arrived.
He asked me if I could tend the Germans as well.
We accepted.
During the night the churchyard was the scene of a battle.
Two of our casualties died.
But among those I could tend, none lost their lives.
I tended all sorts of wounds, some were skin-deep but others were more serious
abdominal cases.”

The blood stains, stains that soaked deep into the wooden pews,
remain clearly visible all these 74 years later.

It is said that the two medics would move the more critically wounded to the front of
the church in order to be near the altar of as they wanted these men to
find a sense of peace should this be their last night on earth.

At one point two German soldiers, who had been hiding in the loft of the church, came down a
side set of stairs holding arms high in the air as they attempted to surrender
to these two bewildered American medics.
They told the German soldiers that there was no time for surrender…they needed them to go
out and fetch some fresh water as they needed their help tending to the wounded men.
The German soldiers willingly obliged.

As I type my recollection of this emotional visit with its surreal story,
I feel the warm tears filling my eyes.

There are so many links to a wide array of sites (some I’ve listed below) that can tell
the story of Angoville with greater detail than I can.
Those who are much more knowledgeable than I…

I wish I could somehow convey the tremendous emotions…emotions from humility to gratitude
that now fill me as I try to share and convey this individual tale…an individual story of duty and
humanity that is but one out of thousands of tales during this particular time of madness.

It makes me feel very very small…and given our current days and time…
I think we might all benefit from feeling small.

The fact that two men who fell woefully short in medical training saved all but two
of the men who were entrusted to their care…men from both sides of battle,
all the while behind enemy lines, is short of miraculous.

As miraculous was the fact that a mortar came crashing down through the roof of this tiny church’s
ceiling landing in the middle of and sticking with a thud smack dab in the center of
the anceint slate floor…

A mortar that did not explode.

Had it exploded, as it should have, the church would have been leveled and all the men killed…
leaving the village of Angoville as just another forgotten causality of war.

Some say it was the saints Côme and Damien who watched over this motley crew of wounded
soldiers and hapless caregivers.

“What allowed that medic to hold for 72 hours without food and rest?
Wright later explained…”The simple concern of helping other people.
When you do something that is worth doing you don’t think of your own life.”

In 1999 Robert Wright made a pilgrimage back to this tiny church.
He noted that “the church at Angoville will never be on the list of the important
churches to be visited in Europe. Yet however small the building is,
it does not prevent God understanding where hearts and prayer are.
They were many in this place.”

Robert Wright passed away at the age of 89.
His wish was to be buried in the cemetery of the same small church where he
had worked alongside Kenneth Moore to save the lives of 80 men.

His grave is simple and yet speaks voulumes in its simplicity.

Today there are only 53 people who remain living in Angoville-Au-Plain.
The local mayor asks those who visit to please remember the importance of this
special place.
I will be sending them a donation…the euros I brought home along with a US monetary donation.

I want to do so because places like Angoville are too important for us to simply allow them to
succumb to the fickleness of time…
because time has an odd way of making us forget what once was while we busy ourselves
so as to not see what will be but rather we allow ourselves to wallow in the current moment
which only hopes to swallow us whole.

There are two stain-glass windows which were installed not long ago which commemorate
the importance of this church.

</a

This will be the first of several tales that I’ll be sharing regarding the big retirement
adventure trip which focuses on the real reason for the trip…that being the visit to
Normandy, France, and the D-Day Memorials…

https://www.rockdalenewtoncitizen.com/news/local/a-veteran-s-story-the-little-church-that-could/article_47f87fc0-5330-554b-8326-4b8cb975a3d9.html

http://klondikes.nl/wordpress/501st-aid-station-in-the-church-of-angoville-au-plain/

https://www.aopa.org/news-and-media/all-news/2018/august/28/toccoa-georgia

confessionals

“The punishment of every disordered mind is its own disorder.”
St. Augustine of Hippo


(an Italian confessional in St Peter’s / The Vatican, Rome / Julie Cook / 2018)

Therefore, confess your sins to one another and pray for one another,
that you may be healed.
The prayer of a righteous person has great power as it is working.

James 5:16

Let me back up a tad…

Back at the end of June, my husband retired.

He had spent 50 years running a small family business.

It was not how he had wanted to spend his life.
It was not his dream.
But it was his lot in the world of his sense of duty.

So when he made the decision to throw in the towel after 50 long grueling years,
I knew I wanted to do something special.
Something memorable to mark such a monumental occasion.

But what would be special?

A trip perhaps?

And perhaps not just any trip.
Perhaps a bucket list sort of trip.

For my husband, however, his idea of leaving this country has simply been crossing over the
border into Canada.
Not that anything is wrong with wandering into Canada…
but Canada’s border wasn’t in the bucket.

The only time my husband had truly left the country, as in the continent,
was in the mid-1970’s.

He was in his sophomore year of college, playing college football, with his eye set on
dentistry or even coaching…
but at the behest of his father, or more like the demand of an abusive alcoholic father,
he stoically left where he was happiest and went to the Joseph Bulova School
in Queen’s New York where he eventually earned a degree in Horology.
That being the study of watches and watchmaking.
And with that followed studies with the GIA institute to become a gemologist and
diamond graduate.

Never his plan but rather what his father demanded what he was to do with his life as
he felt obliged to do so.

Following two years of surviving ad enduring life in New York,
this small town country boy was then sent to America Somoa where he managed the Bulova Watch Plant
for a year’s time.

It was following this year in absentia, a year of living on a 5-mile wide and long island that he
vowed, that if he ever made it home, he’d never leave the country again.

And that vow stuck…for 50 long years.
With, of course, Canada being excluded.

So now let us fast forward to a man 69 years of age and finally retiring…
I told him that if he would like…if he was willing…
I would make the bucket list trip happen.

And so he actually delightfully agreed.

The bucket list trip had always been to Normandy, France.

Or rather, it was to the beaches and towns of the D-Day invasion.
The places where regular men were to be unknowingly transformed into heroes…
heroes because these average young men willingly gave up their lives for all of
Western Civilization’s precious gift of democracy and freedom—
a gift so woefully tested by our current society.

I will soon write about this personal pilgrimage of sorts within the coming days…
but before I do so, I want to address my concern over a current global obsession.

An obsession that only those living under rocks must be missing.

If you’ve ever found yourself traveling outside of the US and after a long
day or either business or touring, wanting to simply fall onto a bed while flipping on
a television hoping to catch a familiar sound of someone speaking your own language,
chances are your choice has been limited to one of two channels…
CNN International or the BBC International.

Both of which have a heavy dose of progressive liberalism in their slant
on global happenings.

Such was our lot during this recent Supreme Court nomination fiasco.

We were subjected to the willy-nilly, the sky is falling Henny Penny sense of
hysteria coming from the news anchors of CNN International.
I actually caught each and every nuanced slur and sensationalistic little dig.

So I will giddily confess…I was greatly happy to be out of the country during all of the
obsession over the Kavanaugh hearings…
or more aptly put…the grilling, the scrutinizing and the personal persecution
of a seemingly decent man, husband, father and professional.

I will not belabor this latest idiocy of ours as I am sick of it all.
Sick of the latest low we, as a Nation, have sunk to.

That we have actually allowed ourselves to conduct governmental dealings as a sleazy
tabloid trash reality show would do…of which I find disgusting…
disgusted over our irreprehensible assinine behavior…is beyond my soul.

Scintillating and titillating are two words I would never have ever considered using when thinking
about, let alone describing, a hearing process working towards the nomination of a Supreme
Court Justice…
Rather we should consider words steeped deeply in the tedious law-minded legal policies
and ponderings of a judicial system.

If we are now wanting to use the haphazard adolescent behavior from our teenaged years
as benchmark measures for our adult appointments and advancements then I fear every last
human being will be in store for a rude awakening if not a ton of troubles.
For what young person among us hasn’t done something dumb, shameful, wrong, illegal
and or simply arrogantly stupid?

For is that now how we, in part, learn?
Learning from youthful idiotic mistakes and poor choices as we make our way
to adulthood?

We just pray, as do the adults in our lives, that such mistakes and poor youthful judgment calls
are not overly detrimental, utterly devastating or sadistically dubious…
and yet sadly, in many cases, they are…

Consider the adolescent bravado of living fast, furious and large while mixing life and death consequences…
James Dean comes to mind.

And no, we are not talking about pathological psychosis that gives way to bizarre heinous actions.
Here we are talking about poor judgemental actions by, more often than not,
self-centered egotistical youth not the actions of psychopaths.

And so when recently visiting St Peter’s in Rome while passing by a confessional booth…
I was struck immediately by our human sinful nature.
Something that hangs over us like a heavy dusty suffocating curtain.

I grew up in a liturgical church…a church with the prayers of confession and confessions
to a priest…all being the norm.
I for one often found myself on that confessing end, seeking both prayerful wisdom and direction
from those more knowledgeable and wizened than myself as I made my way through the muddy waters of
growing up balancing on the wire between my newly professed faith while finding my way as a willful
teenager.

Absolution.

Absolution which we graciously offer to those who seek forgiveness…
the ultimate absolution granted to each of us from the one who hung on a cross.

“Go and sin no more” said the Jewish rabbi to the adulteress woman.

The confessional is a sacred form of sharing from the penitent to the priest.
It is a protected sharing…protected even in a court of law.
For it is a sharing between penitent, priest and God.
And yet, I somehow sense that our rabid politicians and progressive liberal culture,
coupled with the hyper-rabid news media, would find the confessional null and void
for the sinners among us…as they seem to find themselves above reproach…

Yet who among us is worthy of casting that stone?

My concern is not with what took place 35 years ago by a supposed 16-year-old kid
and those who can and cannot recall the who, what and wheres of cloudy recollections…
but rather with the dubious ploys used by those who simply hate a president and everything
attached to his tenure.

Such that they seek a saint amongst the sinners…

May God have mercy on us all…

If we confess our sins,
he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.

1 John 1:9

whew….finally back home

“There is a kind of magicness about going far away and then coming back all changed.”
Kate Douglas Wiggin


(flowers in the garden of Les Invalides / Paris, France / Julie Cook / 2018)

Oh, there is so much to share, so much to tell and so much gleaned…

And yet there is so much to unpack, so much to wash, so much to sort, so much to put away…
and yet running over to see the Mayor today will have to take precedence.

Sleep you ask?
Going on a good 36 hours without any…well, that makes for being a bit giddy or
perhaps more like sloppy and delusional…either way it will come.

I wrote so many posts in my head these past 18 days.
God revealed so much.
But it will take some time to put running thoughts to paper…or more like thoughts to keyboard.
And it will take a few days to sort it all out.

So forgive me but it will take some time in order to play catch up!

But for now…I wanted to share something I read yesterday offered by C.S. Lewis.
Thoughts I found to be rather quite profound.

But I know, I know….what doesn’t C.S. share that isn’t profound…???

Yet this particular passage spoke most pointedly to my heart in a most humbling way…

Please enjoy and be blessed as I was…and know that I will be trickling back
into this blogosphere family of ours…

“Imagine yourself as a living house.
God comes in to rebuild that house.
At first, perhaps, you can understand what He is doing.
He is getting the drains right and stopping the leaks in the roof and so on:
you knew that those jobs needed doing and so you are not surprised.
But presently he starts knocking the house about in a way that hurts abominably and
does not seem to make sense.
What on earth is He up to?
The explanation is that He is building quite a different house from the one you thought of –
throwing out a new wing here, putting on an extra floor there, running up towers, making courtyards.
You thought you were going to be made into a decent little cottage but He is building a palace.
He intends to come and live in it Himself.”

C. S. Lewis

an adventure is afoot

“To fall in love with God is the greatest romance;
to seek him the greatest adventure; to find him,
the greatest human achievement.”

St. Augustine of Hippo


(a good book, a camera and a backpack…hummmm)

Remember me telling you that my husband retired as of July 1 after 50 years of running
his own business?

Well, my quandary was–what does a wife do to commemorate such a milestone??
…or rather…
what does a wife do to commemorate the removal of a millstone from around one’s neck??

I’ve been working behind the scenes now for a year.
Plotting.
Planning.
Calculating.
Arranging.

There was always one thing on the proverbial bucket list that he has always said he’d
like to really see in person.
A place he’s mentioned many times.
But not being one to want to leave the confines of our 50 united states would make such an
adventure rather impossible.

Now my bucket list, on the other hand, is pretty much endless….
as I tend to think more broadly while my husband ponders life with more of a
narrowed laser focus.

I want to see St Catherine’s Monastery in the south of the Sinai Penninsula.
I want to visit Krakow.
I want to visit Jerusalem.
I want to see Auschwitz and Dachau.
I want to be invited into the labyrinth of the Vatican’s library.
I want to go to Chartwell to visit my dear friend Winston…
I want to see Istanbul (aka Constantinople) and Hagia Sophia
I want to sit in Lambeau Feild, in the dead of winter, watching the Packers dominate
all the while wearing my cheese hat on my head,
freezing my a*$ off, as I cheer on Aaron Roger and company.

My husband, on the other hand, well, he could care less about any of that.

He does taunt me however with his wanting to moose hunt knowing that I
have emphatically stated that we will not ever bear nor moose hunt in this house.

Other than that, he’s pretty good.

Just find him a good fishing hole and he’s happy.

So I told him if he really wanted to see this one particular rather sacred and hallowed site,
I would make it happen.

He agreed.

And so today is the day we depart for this bottom of his bucket adventure…
the only adventure really in the bucket.

I have opted not to bring anything electronic with me but my phone.
No computer.
No Ipad.
Only a camera and a phone…

A phone in order to touch base with “the Mayor” of course!
…as in I hope she can get through this temporary separation from her chief aide
as she continues to resort to that continued foot in mouth miscue of hers…
Or rather…can this aide survive without the weekly fix of the Mayor…
for you see, this adventure was set in motion long before the Mayor came into our lives…


(the Mayor has a problem with always putting her foot in her mouth /
Julie Cook (aka cheif aide)/ 2018)

So how will you write your “blob” my husband asks…

“I won’t” I reply.

This is your adventure…

And so just know that I’ll be back in a couple of weeks–or three.

Yeah…
it’s that kind of adventure.

Prayers that his trepidation for this sort of travel will remain at bay
while I try to survive without the Mayor!

I have fought the good fight,
I have finished the race,
I have kept the faith.

2 Timothy 4:7