The 4th child in a family of 10 children. My Papa adored his family. They had almost nothing that the world at large would consider worthwhile. Their clothes were rough, and handed down multiple times. They had no electricity or indoor plumbing.
What they did have was unlimited in scope. They shared an incredible amount of love. In their home love was not a word that was spoken frequently. Instead it was shown by acts of kindness, and works of duty. Yes, I said it, duty, a word that is seldom heard today.
Duty meant so much to my Father. It meant that he served a mission for two years to serve his God, and his fellowman. Then it meant that right after returning from his mission he enlisted to serve his country. This was a conflict of interest. He taught Christ's peace beyond understanding, and then daily was shooting at his fellowman. These people were total strangers to him, but he was charged with wounding and killing them.
Papa prayed constantly that he would never see anyone that he had wounded or killed. This was a very difficult thing because Papa was in the Infantry of the Army. He participated in brutal hand to hand fighting. He also was a Paratrooper, parachuting from a plane down to the ground, sometimes invading enemy territory to scout out the area.
Writing to his beloved parents he said, "So, I have seen war now. It is nothing that I wish to discuss. Next topic." He rarely spoke to me, his youngest daughter about the horrors that he witnessed.
He did tell me about one man in his platoon that had been brutalized by war. He took and kept pictures of his "kills." Proudly, this man would share the pictures and explain how the "kill" happened. Threaded through the images of death and dying were pictures of small children. Small children were sometimes forced into assisting the opposing sides troops. They made excellent scouts, and American's were less likely to shoot them.
Papa could not understand that anyone could glory so completely in violence and hatred. It was one of the few glimpses that he gave me into his experiences as a soldier.
When Papa came home, he married his fiancé. She had stood ferociously in support of him at home. Their wedding picture never fails to draw tears to my eyes. Papa is so thin...the result of poor food, and illness as he fought in the foxholes of the Phillipine's and then stood as an Occupation Troop member in Japan. The joy in his face is easy to see, and joyous to witness. Mama...oh my dear beloved Mama that HATED, LOATHED, DESPISED having her picture taken...is completely giddy and natural in front of that camera. You can tell easily that she is rejoicing in their reunion, and now their new life beginning together.
My Mom and my Papa worked hard together, and pulled joy from every possible moment.
Papa suffered with post traumatic stress disorder, manifested mainly by night terrors. (There was a vague, nebulous name for this condition, it was called "Battle fatigue." It was not spoken about in general, it was considered a weakness. In spite of it, he attended college graduating first with his Bachelor's and then almost immediately returning to earn his Master's degree.
Today is the anniversary of Papa's death, 23 years ago. There is a joy in the final reunion of my 95 years old Mother with my beloved Papa. I rejoice in their renewed connection, but oh how I miss them! It will take awhile for me to get to the point where my intense grief in the current separation is eased by the sweetness of memory!
Tomorrow is my first Easter since Mama passed. Mama was the embodiment of Spring, Resurrection, and Renewal. For ninety-five years she was battered about by the complications and struggles of earth life, the Great Depression, World War II, the Korean Conflict, the Vietnamese War, the death of all those closest to her, except her children, and acting as second Mama to her brothers and sisters as they faced challenges. Her health was ALWAYS a challenge but somehow she found ways to press forward IN SPITE OF it.
So...tomorrow I will honor both of my beloved parents. They are reunited. I will also think of my very own sweetheart. I will celebrate my faith filled belief that we do not cease to exist when our heart quits beating, and our life seems to end.
I will challenge myself (and it WILL be hard) to focus on their renewal, and reunion, and look forward to my own reunion (according to my daughters in about 100 years...lol) with these dear ones. I will give thanks to God for the idea that they continue, and that they are even now, as close as my heart and mind.
Mama had a cherished ritual. Each and every Easter morn the first thing that she would say to us was "Jesus has risen." We responded, "Risen Indeed." So tomorrow if I happen to say to you, "Jesus is Risen," please give the correct response...it will keep Papa, Mama, and Nyle close to me, and remind me what Easter is all about!