A Week of Remembrance
It has been a long, long week of remembering. Two weeks ago, I had no idea that this was all going to develop, and I would never have thought that this not particularly significant week of May (with one notable exception) would have turned out to be so important.
Early last week I got an e-mail from one of the Veterans Collaborative coordinators asking if I would be willing to speak to the staff of her agency about Memorial Day. One of their missions is to support military families and she had been surprised and a little horrified to find that many of her colleagues did not know the meaning of Memorial Day. She had heard me speak at the Veterans Plaza dedication in 2010 (see the previous post about Gregory Hamilton) and talk about the poppies that our friends in the UK and Canada (and Australia and New Zealand) wear on November 11th which they know as Remembrance Day. Here in the U.S. the poppies are sold on Memorial Day as well, but you see them less and less often: it may be a tradition in danger of dying out which would be a loss for all of us.
So I happily said yes of course and then spent the next week realizing that I did not have time to write my talk. I had planned to use a lot of what I'd written for the Plaza dedication so I was not too worried and in fact, I finished writing about an hour and fifteen minutes before I was supposed to arrive (it's a 30 minute drive to their office). Needless to say, this was not my best delivery, though I do believe there were some great thoughts in there, but it was from the heart. I had done a little research on the poppies and found that the notion of them thriving in field churned by marching armies and drenched in blood was actually many centuries old. I really doubt that the earlier centuries had brought forth a poem as wrenching and beautiful as "In Flanders Fields" which in turn inspired the paper poppies sold around November 11th.
Despite my lack of preparation the talk seemed to go well and I think it accomplished its goal of educating, just a little bit.
On Thursday night a private message came on facebook from a young man who had been in Deuce Four with Thomas. He lives relatively nearby but he had not been to visit the grave since he came to this area a few years ago. I had offered in the past to meet him at the cemetery and now he was ready to take me up on that. So, on Friday morning, Bosco and Yang, another Deuce Four member, met me at Gate of Heaven and followed me to Thomas's spot. We stood by the marker and talked for over an hour and a half. It was very comforting to me and I think it helped them too. When we parted, they were going to Arlington to see 1SG Michael Bordelon's grave--Michael's anniversary is May 10th (2005).
And finally, Richard and I met two more Gold Star mothers this afternoon. One of them I know from Facebook: she in turn knew the second one from being "neighbors" at Arlington. We talked and ate for about 2-1/2 hours. It was very good, though I think I need to learn how to be quiet and listen better in these groups! I'm going to stay in touch with both moms--we need each other because there are things that Gold Star family members can say to each other that are just going to be incomprehensible to the rest of the world. It is good to talk with people who understand.
Which brings me to the one part of the week that I knew in advance was important. Tuesday, the day I gave my talk, was the eighth anniversary of Chase, Laurie's son. Laurie reached out to me about six months after Thomas's death. Well, she threw me a lifeline is what she did, and told me to hang on. I've been grateful every day since then that Laurie picked up the phone and called me--it took me several years to realize that she made that call only a couple of weeks before Chase's first anniversary which any of us will tell you is a big day to get through and one you anticipate (as in waiting, not expecting something good) for weeks. God bless you, Laurie.