Remembering – Now and Then


Christmas is supposed to be a time of joy. It is a time for being grateful for loved ones. It is a time to be thankful for what you have. A time to get with loved ones and share good times, good food, praise the birth of Christ, and praise God.

Living in another city, away from family over the holidays was always such a lonely time for me. It was especially hard when I was in the military. That was during war time, Vietnam. My first Christmas was in San Diego. But, my Mom, God bless her, wrote often and it was a big help. Decorations were all over the base. The mess hall Christmas dinner, while not Mom’s cooking, was great because of the shared loneliness and efforts to lift everyones spirits. Being a war time made it all the more special. We didn’t know how many of us would be gone next Christmas.

As a female, I didn’t have to worry about myself. Often the war to me seemed to be so far removed. Back home we talked about it and read about it. But, we just went about our daily routines as if it wasn’t really happening. It was easy to do this when you never fought or had to fight. The Bloggers changed all that. They put the war right into our consciousness every waking moment. They make it “real!”

I had three brothers that were in the Army [while I was in the Corps along with my sister]; but, even though they volunteered, they never went to Vietnam. My sister was already at Quantico when when I went there after San Diego. I can’t remember if all five of us were all in at the same time. But out of six kids, five served and at least three were active at the same time. I now understand the silent agony of my parents now! I have two of age. One was turned down for health reasons. I may soon have a daughter in the Corps!

When I finally got married it was better. My husband’s family was close by on those times I couldn’t go home. Later when I moved back home; had my two kids; it didn’t even bother me too when I got divorced. I saw it coming before I had my daughter. But, I had my kids and my family. Family is everything! If you’re lucky, you have one that stands behind you and together with you like mine.

The oldest of my younger brothers died back in ’71 about a year to the date after his EOL from the Army. He had cancer and was 21. We all felt as if a huge part of us died with him. It was especially poignant since we all worried about one or more of them getting killed in the war! This giant of a man over 6′ and an 82nd vet and Ranger was eaten away to little over 100 pounds when he died! He would have preferred to die in combat. After watching his painful death, so would I!

My parents stopped celebrating Christmas sending Christmas cards and donated the money to a charity. We are all so angry at God for a time. My nephew, Mike, helped with all that. He was born three months before my brother died. Christmas celebrations started back up again after a while. My nephew, Michael, put some of the light back in my folks eyes! They didn’t look so dead inside all the time. He and his Mom lived at home with them. Then my other sister had a little girl. Seeing them play together helped heal much of the pain. Nothing takes it all away!!

My son was two and Mike was 11 when Dad died. That was about a month after Christmas. Dad has just got his first retirement check. He hadn’t even had time to cash it yet! Mike, his Mom and my Mom were there with him when he had a heart attack and collapsed to the cold ground, dead! He was clearing branches from a tree that went through my sister’s bedroom. We were having it cut down. The cutters misjudged and sent it into the house.

I had my second miscarriage about the same time that same day. But, God blessed me the next month with another child. I am very fortunate that that baby was OK because it was too soon to get pregnant again. But, while grieving my Dad’s death I miscalculated. I had a beautiful daughter 9 months later. Even though my marriage was over, I had two of the greatest kids. Raising them has been the greatest honor and most wonderful experience in my life!

Now my daughter has just turned 23. She graduates from college in May. My son will be 25 Christmas Eve. He has one more class to finish his freshman year. They are the most important people in my life and then my Mom. Thinking about losing either of them could make me ill if I dwell on it. Every day as I look at them I am amazed that God “loaned them” to me to raise and they turned out so wonderful despite my short comings!

Often since their birth, I reflect on different things relating to Mom and Dad, my childhood, and now as a parent, I see a different picture. Things that once troubled me deeply before seem so insignificant now! Kids have that effect on parents. I understand and see so many things differently now. I often wish my Dad had been around a little longer so I could tell him some of the things I tell my Mom! I’d like to let him know what a great Dad he really was to us all.

As I think about all these things I think about my sister and all she has lost She has lost her son, her only child. Her four grandchildren have lost their Dad. Though his widow has long since moved on, I am sure some part of her still grieves his loss. My Mom has lost her first grandchild who was more another son than a grandchild. My brothers and sister and I have lost a nephew who was more a little brother than a nephew.

We have all lost some irreplaceable part of ourselves and the hole simply cannot be filled. As I see the changes in my mother in her appearance and in her eyes, I am troubled. I wonder if she will ever get past this or will she continue to slowly fade away from us all in her grief. Death does that. It takes a part of those left behind.

Somehow we find a way to go on. Sometimes, if we have lost too much, the desire to go on is lost. I think some times this is where my Mom is now. But, my sister, I don’t know about her. She never talks about it. Except for her grandchildren, I think her life, too, has lost all meaning.

Will time give her some peace? Will her grandchildren give it to her? I don’t know. What I do know is that the empty part of myself that feels the loss of Mike sometimes seems too wide to cross still. So, I cannot imagine how she must feel. The last two or three years have been hard for me to adjust to. The kids are now grown; but they still live at home, work, and go to college.

But they aren’t those two kids any more who still needed me so much. They need me other ways now. They need me to let go. To let them make their choices, their mistakes, their lives. They need me to let them do all this without guilt but with love and understanding! It has been very hard to do at times.

So how does my sister survive her loss? How does she get through each and every day knowing she will never see Mike again? never hear his laughter? never have a mother son talk again? never see his joy at her look of surprise at a gift her has given her? How does she get through the nights when she has no choice but to fall asleep because she can’t avoid it any more?

How do any of our Moms, Dads, wives, husbands, Grandmothers,Grandfathers, and children go on after losing their loved one in the war?

As you celebrate your Christmas, remember those lost. But, remember those who have lost also!

Those widows or widowers and children need our love, patience, and understanding. Send them a card, a small gift of candy or fruit, anything small that let’s them know they are not alone in their grief. Go visit them. Follow their lead. Most would love to just talk about that lost loved one to someone else. to tell them how great they were. to express their pain. maybe even express their anger. They just want you to listen and let them know that their lost loved one mattered. That they aren’t forgotten!

And as you do so, don’t forget the silent grievers, the grandparents and sometimes the parents. Often the grieving grandparents and sometimes the parents of married lost ones are kept out of “the loop.” They are left hanging in their grief, silently grieving all alone. They no longer have any legal status. They only have moral consideration to rely on. So, if you know of a family that has lost a son or daughter, grandson or granddaughter, send or give them a card. Stop by for a moment. Share their memories and pain. Just don’t forget them.

Mike

There once was a boy with red hair,
his face full of mischief and freckles;
he lived life as if nary a care,
never once moved by silly heckles!

He was so full of energy and love,
lived every day to the fullest;
he believed in God up above,
in all things he always did his very best!

At four made us laugh reading the paper,
as a teenager he wrote and sang raps in Church;
had us all waiting for his next jovial caper,
to all who knew him, a true friend in a lurch!

He always brought out the best in everyone,
trekking the junk stores or going to 7-11 with Dad,
to him this was a most special type of fun,
for Dad, it was the most fun he ever had!

When no one else was able to give Mom comfort,
he could talk to her for hours on end;
as a man, father and husband, the talks sometimes short,
daily visits, coffee, a chat, maybe a short nap was a trend!

He and his Mom were more than mother and son,
they were also great friends and had mutual respect;
Whether serious or in jest, their talks were fun,
Their love for each other was not hard to detect

Whether instigating a rowdy banter over our service,
or reminiscing about our childhood antics or our lost brother;
he brought out the best in each of us overlooking any vice,
his love and kindness was better than any quelling look of ice!

He put 100% in all that he did and it showed,
was a wonderful husband, a decorated police officer;
It was as a father that he truly glowed,
loved his country and died defending her!

But with all his great qualities and what he gave us,
what I most remember and hear in my head every day;
are the simple words he wrote in a rap and sang at his Church and Jesus:


“Doesn’t Heaven sound like a beautiful place?
And I’m ready for the day I see his face.
Won’t be no guns.
won’t be no knives.
Hear the best preaching that
you ever heard in your lives.”
[by: PO2 Michael J. Gray, killed in Kuwait, March 5, 2004]”

Merry Christmas Mike!

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~ by devildog6771 on December 18, 2007.

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