This is Memorial Day in the US. Many people do not know that this day of remembrance was begun by former slaves honoring the dead Union soldiers in Charleston, South Carolina. This is a day for remembering those who made the final sacrifice.
My husband is a graduate of the US Military Academy at West Point. We married after graduation and spent 20 years moving from post to post. West Point instills in it’s graduates a phenomenal love of country and a desire to be the best person you can be. My husband has lived out that code his entire life.
Two years of that time were spent in Viet Nam with a brief tour in the states in between. He led a Company of soldiers and spent the first year almost entirely in the jungle. His men faced danger every day. The jungle was so hot that they literally rotted through their uniforms and new ones had to be delivered by helicopter each week. They never knew each day if they would be just struggling through the heavy jungle growth or fighting for their lives. Each night’s rest could be interrupted by gunfire and fear. He fought during the Tet Offensive and cannot talk about that time.
His men loved him and after he returned home I received a letter in the mail with money collected from the company for us to enjoy meals out. He was the only commander who walked away from that company. The others died.
Each day I thank God that he returned home, not only in one piece, but also able to endure the memories. He has been to the Viet Nam wall in Washington, DC once and will never go again. It is too painful
Just thinking about the men who fought with him and the classmates of his who died in that war brings tears to my eyes and his. Neither of us can listen to taps played at military funerals. May God grant peace to all those who served in that war and all others. Those who lived and those who died. They blessed our lives.
Today for some reason my mind is blank….or struggling for clarity. I thought about this poem written a while ago and offer it here.
Deep in the closets of my mind dark secrets are hiding I have not seem them for many years
I stand and look at the doors and fear to look inside to let the light shine in
The fear is not of pain but something far more frightening the fear of myself
the real me hiding all these years the me no one can love the me I cannot accept
God, help me to fling open the doors and with broom in hand throw out the secrets
and dust off the person who has been hiding in the dark
Yesterday I read an article about the newest drug craze. People are buying flower seed and using them as drugs. Apparently some seed have an ingredient that is similar to LSD. I guess it is far enough away from the 60’s for them to not remember how those drugs work. LSD was a big deal in the 60’s. Timothy Leary was the guru who encouraged people to try the drug. He wanted everyone to “take a trip” and experience altered reality. For some people it did what was advertised. For others it produced a “bad trip” and not only did people do things like try to fly off of buildings but some kept experiencing “trips” for years after using the drug once.
I have never wanted to be out of control. That may just be an issue for me but I had no desire to try mind altering drugs. Native Americans and primitive peoples have used various plants to reach an altered state. However, I don’t think they have done it for fun but as a religious experience.
I am sad that there is such a culture of drug use. There is a big problem with opiods. Some of the drugs that we use for anxiety and depression are being abused by those who don’t have any problems. It worries me that so many people need to escape their lives by altering their brains.
I don’t know if the problem is any worse than it has been in the past. Maybe we have shifted from emphasis on drugs like morphine and invented new ways to dose our bodies. Whatever is the problem, abusing out bodies is not what life is about. I have no idea how to help but I wish I could.
Today I am sad. It seems that there has been another emotional upheaval in my family. When you have children you know that things might not go as planned but it hurts when they don’t. We have our first great grandchild. He was born on Friday and was found to have an infection that will require days of antibiotics. This is a small part of the whole picture and there is more to the situation that brings stress to all of us.
If you are a good parent you do the very best you can and when children follow a path that scares you it is hard. It may be that all will work out but that doesn’t help the anxiety and fear.
No matter how hard we try life always throws a curve and we end up in pain. As a mother, grandmother and now great grandmother it is so difficult to be unable to fix it all. Hurt abounds and there is nothing to do but pray and hope. I can offer help and support but that is about all. I can’t cure the problems or take away the pain. Oh, I wish I could!
I think one of the hardest things in life is to come against situations where you have no control and no solution. All there is to do is to ride the Tsunami wave and pray that things work out in the long run.
Please pray for my great grandson and family.
Today there was a terrible tragedy in our area. A C 130 military aircraft crashed just after takeoff. They have not said yet about survivors but a video of the crash (taken by someone who heard the aircraft and thought it sounded funny) shows the plane going in a nose dive. It seems unlikely that anyone survived. We have not heard how many were aboard but somewhere between five and nine crew.
It is amazing that it crashed on a major highway and didn’t hit any cars. I guess in every tragedy there is some light. My heart goes out to the families of those soldiers. Their lives will never be the same. “What a difference a day makes” (from the song). It is so true. We can never be sure of a next moment, next day, next year. We make extensive plans and don’t know if they will happen.
If we spent our days worrying about what will happen next we would never leave home. When my youngest daughter was 15 years old she flew to Japan as an exchange student. We let her go far away. At that time a passenger plane was (I think) accidentally shot down and I didn’t want her to go. My husband pointed out that we can’t stop living for fear of what will happen.
Many people have talked about how fruitless worry is. We are not living if we spend our life in fear. We must live and make life worthwhile.
Lately I have been thinking about good and bad emotions. Good emotions run the gamut from a simple flash of a decent day to full blown joy. It is easy to see the negative ones. Fear, anger, sadness, anxiety, depression, sorrow….I could go on. To counter these we can use the positive things we don’t often see as emotions: safety, relaxation, strength, gratitude, pleasure, satisfaction, friendship, kindness, and assertiveness. (From the article How to Tap into Your Light by Kalia Kelmenson in Spirituality and Health)
Most of these we don’t equate with emotion and so we don’t key into them. We don’t see them as positive emotions. We don’t focus on them. That is a major part of the problem.
I don’t know about you, but I am more likely to come home and relate a story about how uncomfortable I felt doing a mediation than that I did a good job. I let the good feeling be lost in the negative emotion. We tend to hang onto the bad feelings and nurse them. We are unwilling to let them go. Think of how often you have been angry about something and just kept bringing it up in conversation or dwelling on it. For some reason we must enjoy holding on to them.
When we don’t let go we experience physical changes. Negative emotions can cause an increase in heart rate and rise in blood pressure. They can decrease our resistance to disease and lower the ability of our immune system to function. They allow our bodies to attack us with autoimmune diseases such as lupus, asthma, ulceration colitis, migraines and irritable bowel. Oh, what we do to ourselves.
We have to learn to focus on the positive emotions and use them to overcome the negative ones. To do that we need to remember what they are and see them when they come. The list above can be added to I’m sure. It’s easy to see how we think when I realized that I had to find that list and couldn’t just come up with one from my head but the negative emotions were right on the tip of my tongue.
I think the most important piece is to be aware of what you are feeling. We can’t change it if we can’t recognize it.
As the song writer Johnny Mercer said “accentuate the positive, eliminate the negative!”
After posting the blog yesterday I have been thinking about death. None of wants to die. It is the unknown and we don’t like the unknown. So far as I know no one (except Jesus–if you are Christian) has ever come back from the dead and no one has told us what is there. Most Christians believe in a heaven although I don’t know if anyone has ever defined it. Some religions think of the afterlife as becoming part of God/cosmos/whatever. Some believe that we are reincarnated and come back as other people. Some of my friends want to come back as one of my husband’s dogs—he spoils them terribly. The point is none of us really knows the answer.
I have seen things worse than death. Some medical problems are so awful that death would be preferable. I think that is obvious since some states allow euthanasia. I am not going to get into the moral issues with that. I just want us to realize that sometimes death is a friend. And really, even though I fear illness I am not sure that I fear death. After all either there is something or there is nothing.
As a nurse I have been with people when they died and I never saw anything except a peaceful death. It’s getting to that point that we fight against it and do our best to ignore and avoid it but when death comes most people are peaceful.
In our culture we try to push death away. We go to the funeral home and look at a body that has been preserved and people say “doesn’t sh/he look wonderful?” I am glad that many people opt for cremation and my best friend’s daughter asked for her ashes to be planted with a young tree. She wanted to be at the root of new life.
I know this has seemed like a morbid subject and I hope you can see beyond that. I am including one of my favorite poems by black poet and preacher James Weldon Johnson. If you have never read his poetry (and sermons in verse) you are missing out.
Go Down, Death
(A Funeral Sermon)
Weep not, weep not,
She is not dead;
She’s resting in the bosom of Jesus.
Heart-broken husband--weep no more;
Grief-stricken son--weep no more;
Left-lonesome daughter --weep no more;
She only just gone home.
Day before yesterday morning,
God was looking down from his great, high heaven,
Looking down on all his children,
And his eye fell on Sister Caroline,
Tossing on her bed of pain.
And God’s big heart was touched with pity,
With the everlasting pity.
And God sat back on his throne,
And he commanded that tall, bright angel standing at his right hand:
Call me Death!
And that tall, bright angel cried in a voice
That broke like a clap of thunder:
Call Death!--Call Death!
And the echo sounded down the streets of heaven
Till it reached away back to that shadowy place,
Where Death waits with his pale, white horses.
And Death heard the summons,
And he leaped on his fastest horse,
Pale as a sheet in the moonlight.
Up the golden street Death galloped,
And the hooves of his horses struck fire from the gold,
But they didn’t make no sound.
Up Death rode to the Great White Throne,
And waited for God’s command.
And God said: Go down, Death, go down,
Go down to Savannah, Georgia,
Down in Yamacraw,
And find Sister Caroline.
She’s borne the burden and heat of the day,
She’s labored long in my vineyard,
And she’s tired--
Go down, Death, and bring her to me.
And Death didn’t say a word,
But he loosed the reins on his pale, white horse,
And he clamped the spurs to his bloodless sides,
And out and down he rode,
Through heaven’s pearly gates,
Past suns and moons and stars;
on Death rode,
Leaving the lightning’s flash behind;
Straight down he came.
While we were watching round her bed,
She turned her eyes and looked away,
She saw what we couldn’t see;
She saw Old Death. She saw Old Death
Coming like a falling star.
But Death didn’t frighten Sister Caroline;
He looked to her like a welcome friend.
And she whispered to us: I’m going home,
And she smiled and closed her eyes.
And Death took her up like a baby,
And she lay in his icy arms,
But she didn’t feel no chill.
And death began to ride again--
Up beyond the evening star,
Into the glittering light of glory,
On to the Great White Throne.
And there he laid Sister Caroline
On the loving breast of Jesus.
And Jesus took his own hand and wiped away her tears,
And he smoothed the furrows from her face,
And the angels sang a little song,
And Jesus rocked her in his arms,
And kept a-saying: Take your rest,
Take your rest.
Weep not--weep not,
She is not dead;
She’s resting in the bosom of Jesus.
From God’s Trombones by James Weldon Johnson. Copyright © 1927 The Viking Press, Inc., renewed 1955 by Grace Nail Johnson.
I want this read at my funeral.