Friday, December 12, 2014

Roses in Winter

 I have an Our Lady of Guadalupe statue. When my husband died roses bloomed at her feet.He was buried Dec 17, 2005.

I love to garden, and have always enjoyed the beauty of Roses in spri
ngtime and throughout the summer months. There is nothing as beautiful as a rose when summer comes after a long cold dark winter. Of course in the front of my house, there is little room for flowers but miniature roses are just the thing for such a small space. I love how they remain small but beautiful planted at the feet of my statue of our Lady of Guadalupe.

The tradition of the miniature roses began as I planted my flower garden in May of 2004. My husband Gene surprised me with the gift of a miniature rose bush. He suggested we plant it in front of the house. It’s a very small area right beside the front entrance to our home. It was such a delicate little plant and it fit perfectly into this small space.

As each delicate bloom opened that summer, my husband seemed to delight in plucking one to give to me, when he came home from work. He even began to take an interest in watering it as the summer went by. That spring of 2004 Gene had been especially happy, due to having come through another cancer battle successfully that past winter. We were both delighted when the doctor said they had gotten all of the cancer and there would be no need for further surgery or treatments.

The following March of 2005, all our joy would be quickly dashed when more cancer was discovered in a routine check up. More surgery followed in April of that year, and we were hopeful that once again the cancer would be defeated.
But this time, the cancer spread quite quickly and nothing seemed to slow its course. As if to punctuate the losing battle that spring my beautiful little miniature Rose bush died. I was really not interested much in gardening that summer anyway. It was hard to think of anything but the cancer battle we were in at the time. Gene struggled on, trying his best to be optimistic and for Mothers day; he bought me another Miniature Rose bush to replace the one, which had died. All through the summer the bush remained green but without any sign of a rose. It was late in the month of October, before the first rose blossoms appeared.

By Thanksgiving, Gene’s cancer had spread and was out of control. He rapidly began to decline, and he could no longer work or leave his sick bed.
Early December remained mild, and that beautiful little bush just kept growing and blooming. On December the 9th, Gene entered the hospital for what would be the last time. Through those dark days, the little blooming rose bush, gave me comfort as I returned home each evening from the hospital. On the day before my beloved died, the weather turned cold and dark and the roses began to die. How my heart grieved that next evening as I returned home from the hospital after Gene’s death. The roses were dead and lifeless also. It only further seemed to drive home the thought, that I now must face a life without my beloved.

On the day of my husband’s funeral, we had the first snowstorm of the season. It was icy and snow was coming down so hard, only the hardiest of souls could attend the funeral. Through it all, we felt God’s love and Mercy surrounding us. The 40 or so people, who did attend, remarked how even the graveside services in the snowstorm seemed as if God was surrounding us.
We were amazingly comfortable and warm as we gathered under the tent beside the grave. No one hurried away after the internment. Instead we all
stood around for about 30 minutes hugging and sharing stories and all the mourners were given a Rose in Memory of my beloved.

Later that evening, after all the guest’s and friends had left my home after the funeral dinner, I stood for a time looking out the window at the scene of cold and snow which covered my little flower garden. Gently pressing a Rose from the funeral to my cheek, the tears began to flow. The weight of grief, felt as if it would swallow me up, and I knew that winter had truly arrived.

Winter in my garden and winter in my new stage of life…I was now a widow, and there would be no more Roses of affection from my beloved. I felt hopelessly frozen in that spot at the window, watching the last rays of daylight fade away. The last rays of a memory of life with my beloved had been laid to rest in that snow-covered grave.

As I stood praying and trying to gain control of my emotions, suddenly, the outdoor security light came on. There in my little front garden, was a miniature rose peeking through the snowdrift looking alive and as though it was June and not December. One last rose of summer I like to think God allowed my beloved to give to me.

Today, entering the ninth year of my widowhood, that miniature rosebush still cheers me up each day when I come home all summer long. This past fall was once again a very difficult time and that little struggling rose bush still manages to convey God’s love in the midst of the storms of life. On the anniversary of my husband’s death, it bloomed once again in a snowstorm.


Copyright 2005

Christmas Angels

Mentally going over my Christmas list, I reassured myself that I had not forgotten anyone. Still, an unshakeable feeling that something was forgotten haunted me. Of course I knew why that haunted feeling hung on despite all the gift wrapped packages safely hidden away. I just did not know what to do about it.

You see, our family had been struggling with the devastation of cancer for many months starting in July of 1988. My husband’s cancer had returned with a vengeance, and our three children had been diagnosed with the predisposition for this same hereditary cancer. My husband’s mother had died of it at the age of thirty-three. The outcome was bleak to say the least. We were still trying to cope with the on-going battle as well as the loss of my sister-in-law that October; she also had died at age thirty-three from cancer.

As Christmas approached, we tried to keep things normal for our children. Our family tradition had always been a joyous family affair. We would lavish decorations on our tree and the outside of our house and bake Christmas goodies in preparation. Then we would invite all the neighbors over for the lighting ceremony and enjoy cookies, hot chocolate and sing Christmas Carols.

This year there would be no real celebration; we were merely going through the motions. Gene was too ill to help with the outside lights so I went to the basement alone to retrieve them. He sorted the lights from the couch where he spent most of his time recouping from the latest surgery. Our kids were not in the Christmas spirit and they scattered to their bedrooms silently dealing with the pain in their own way.

Feeling no joy, I set up the nativity scene in the front yard by myself. It was merely tradition, with no hope of a better tomorrow. When all the lights, and decorations were finished and the tree adorned, we all came together to look at it, but turned away with heavy hearts. It looked like Christmas would not come to our house that year; maybe it would never come again. We pronounced it good enough and retired to our beds for the night. Silence shrouded our house and sleep brought little relief or sweet dreams.

The following morning we awoke to an icy-white out. A blizzard had blown through our area over night and dumped nearly three foot of snow. A heavy white blanket covered all of the outside decorations, leaving our nativity scene buried below the ice-encrusted front yard. One by one we looked out to see that the storm had wiped out what little joy I had tried to create. The desolation of Christmas was now complete. Our weak attempts had proved futile against nature both inside and outside our home. The nativity would stay buried and forlorn. We had no more energy left for pretending.

As we all moved toward our kitchen for a quiet breakfast, strange sounds drifted in from the other side of our living room picture window. The faintest jingle of laughter pierced the air. Each of us moved back toward the window, drawn like a magnet. We looked out into the yard again and saw a wondrous sight. There on their knees in the snow were three little angels. As we watched the scene unfold, more angels came to join them. They all wore mittens and giggled while they used their hands to dig the manger out of the snow. These particular angels looked very familiar though.

A little five-year old named Megan had brought a baby blanket in which to wrap the Christ child. As Megan wrapped and hugged the baby Jesus, neighbors had come and joined the children. They came to sing to the Christ child, to share their laughter and most of all their joy. They brought Christmas cookies, hot chocolate, Christmas carols and laughter. What they especially brought us was the Christmas tradition our own hearts could not muster. They awakened our hope in the Christ child and gave us strength to face the New Year. This special memory of Christmas, when God’s grace outshone the darkness and despair lives on in our hearts.

Copyright 1989

 

 

 

Sunday, December 7, 2014

WWii My Dad's story


Love Thy Enemies as I have loved You

 

My father was a Marine and he served in the Pacific during World War II. For the most part, dad rarely spoke about the war. Like most soldiers who served, the subject was one with too many painful memories. Dad generally would keep the subject light and entertaining whenever he did speak about the war. There was one story though, that my father loved to tell my brothers and I whenever we would ask about the war. It was a story dear to his heart.

 

During the winding down of the war against Japan, dad was serving in the Pacific theater. One night he drew night patrol and was assigned to scout for enemy troop movements in the rough jungle terrain. He had just climbed a tree to conceal himself, when seemingly out of nowhere the entire area beneath the tree was filled with enemy Japanese soldiers. Dad found himself trapped in the treetop for hours on end, as the enemy decided to camp right beneath the tree.

 

Barely able to breath, for fear of giving away his position, dad said he spent the time praying for God’s protection and asking God to help him. Every prayer he had ever learned, swirled through his mind and heart, as he waited silently in that treetop. He prayed that he would not be discovered, and as time went on he began to pray for the enemy soldiers beneath the tree. He said he could see, in his minds eye, our family back home and he imagined these soldiers were missing their loved ones too.

 

Up close, the enemy soldiers looked very much like the men in his unit. While their physical appearance was not American, and he could not understand their language, he knew from observing them that they were Gods children too. Men caught up in a war, which had brought them all to serve their country. Each one standing for what they thought was right, according to their upbringing and nationality. Like him, they were ordinary men with families and friends in a country far away. Men who might never see their loved ones again should they perish in the jungles of war. As he prayed and watched them, they sat relaxed around the jungle clearing, laughing and sharing letters and photos from back home, the same as my father and his fellow soldiers did when not on alert.

 

As night began to give way to the first light of the morning, my father accepted that in the end, he would probably not be returning home. The odds were stacked against him and he knew he could not remain motionless and undetected for much longer. Having made his peace with God, my dad began his final silent prayer. He prayed for the men beneath the tree and their families. He prayed for courage for the necessity, which might mean he must fire upon and kill his enemy. And for forgiveness also, as my father never took Gods commandment, “Thou shalt not kill,” lightly.

 

Just as my father gave the outcome over to Our Father in Heaven and made the sign of the cross, an enemy soldier spotted his hiding place in the treetop. As my father signed himself with the cross, their eye’s locked upon one another in the instance of war and the struggle to survive. To my dad’s utter amazement, the enemy soldier silently made the sign of the cross on his own forehead, and put his finger to his lips as if to say; “Be still my brother. I shall not betray you.” Almost in that very instant, the enemy soldiers began to move out as silently and as quickly as they had arrived. My dad never ceased Thanking God for his protection on that day. And dad always remembered to pray for his brother in Christ whose name dad never knew.

Copyright: 2006 

 

Monday, October 13, 2014

A Star named Lucy


     On July 22nd, 1997 a shooting Star entered our lives. She was 76 pounds of black fur, cold nose, wet tongue and pitiful to look at. It all began as an idyllic Tuesday afternoon quest to adopt a dog from the want ad’s in our local paper. About three months after our old dog died, we had decided to look for another dog to adopt. We had always raised our former dogs, from the usual puppy age of six weeks.

All had been very special. This time however, we decided to adopt a dog that was older and just needed a good home. We decided we did not want to go through all the work that puppy training entailed. After scanning the Sunday paper, I found a listing for a dog, which seemed to be just the dog we were looking for. It was an ad for a small Yorkshire terrier and stated that the dog was housebroke, gentle and only two years old. The ad said the people were moving out of state and unable to take the dog. They had actually advertised two dogs; but the other dog was a Lab/Chessie mix and was advertised as one, which had unspecified special needs.
     After calling to inquire if I could drop by to see the Yorkshire terrier and I received a positive response, I drove over to look at what I expected to be a well cared for little lap sitter type of dog. At least that was my plan when I set out that Sunday afternoon. When I arrived I discovered that another family had arrived before me and were taking the little dog. Just as I turned to leave, the woman who owned the dogs asked me if I would be interested in the other dog. She practically begged me to take a look at the dog. The other dog of course was the big Lab/Chessie mix. This was certainly not in my plan that day…until they told me her story.

     Star was her name. They had raised her until she was a year old and then given her to their daughter and son-in-law who lived on a farm fifty miles away. The dog was now 3 years old. Unfortunately the son-in-law was an abuser of man and beast alike. Star was gentle and kind with everyone, especially the daughter and the grandbaby the woman explained. She said that a couple of months earlier, the abusive son-in-law had tried to harm the woman and her baby in a drunken rage. Star in her effort to protect, had jumped in to receive a knife wound intended for the daughter. The woman was able to escape with her baby and the dog was left to fend for itself. Eventually, the wounded animal had walked, crawled and strained to get all the way back to Kansas City and the parents home. She had been tracking her way home for several weeks the woman explained; when within blocks of the parents house the dog collapsed at a gas station on the inter state. As she described the scene and named the station location, my
heart skipped a beat. I knew the very dog she was describing.

     You see, two weeks after our beloved Cocker Maddie had died, my husband had come home from work one evening very upset. On his route home that particular day, he had passed by that same gas station and this was the very scene he had described to me. He said; he had seen a badly starved and beaten black Lab mix dog collapse. He had stopped to try to assist the dog if possible. Several other people had also stopped and were trying to divert the rush hour traffic to save the dog. The dog kept staggering in and out of traffic before she finally collapsed in front of the gasoline station. The dog was terribly frightened and would not let anyone approach her. Finally a woman had come along and said she recognized the dog as her neighbors missing dog. Impossible as it seemed, the dog had survived more than a fifty-mile trek across Missouri. The woman said she was sure it was her neighbors missing dog. Everyone decided it must have been true, as the frightened animal offered no resistance when the woman called her Star. She became docile and allowed the woman to load her in the truck.

   It was as though God had planned our adopting her all along. My husband had worried about the fate of that dog every day since it had happened. Here I was, being given the opportunity to save her once again. This time, the save would be because she was not getting well. She had heartworms and was dying. The couple was moving; they had no money to care for her and did not want to have to put her to sleep.
     I wish I could describe the look on my husbands face when I came home with this pitiful, scrawny piece of canine fur. He took one look and said;” Good Lord! She looks just like the Lab I saw at the gas station. Of course when I explained it was the very same one, he was instantly in love with what would become a 100 pound lap sitter, once we got her well again. It broke his heart that she shivered and was terrified every time he came near her. He finally discovered his wearing his baseball cap terrified her. We finally concluded that must have triggered a memory of the man who abused her. Being a farmer, the abusive man had probably worn jeans and a ball cap. Gene packed away all of his hats from then on. Slowly but surely over the next few weeks she warmed up to him.
     After several rounds of treatment for her heartworms, she regained her health. In the meantime, she quickly learned that Gene was her champion. He held her and cuddled her through all the misery she had to endure with the treatments. After a couple of weeks, Gene decided we should change her name from Star to Lucy. She wasn’t responding to her name, and he decided the man must have used it when beating her. She seemed to associate the name Star with pain. Sure enough she instantly came to accept the name Lucy and it stuck. We never mentioned her old name again. She liked it so much she decided Gene was her best friend. Now she wanted to snuggle by his chair when he came home and sleep beside him in the bed. He didn’t have the heart to make her sleep on the floor. She quickly wormed her way into every fabric of our lives.
     For the first few months, we thought they had removed her voice box, as she never made a sound. But one day, as we were walking her a child who ran out onto the path unexpectedly startled her and she let out a bark. Then she cringed as though she expected a beating. My husband and I laughed and cried and hugged her over and over. We praised her and told her it was ok. From then on, she got her doggie voice back and she could sing like and angel on cue. Within days of getting her voice, she would prove to be a hero once more.
     During the night that first November after we adopted her she woke us by barking and growling. She jumped at the window and then ran to the front door of the house and barked some more. We turned on the lights and looked around but could not discover the reason she was so upset. We were puzzled, but she finally calmed back down and we went back to sleep. The next day we discovered a burglar had broken into two houses on our block during the night. We were pretty sure Lucy had run them off from our house.
     As the years went by, Lucy became as dear to us as any dog we have ever owned. While she would never completely regain her health, she was just the perfect companion for us. She had the sweetest face, which oozed love and affection.
     In the summer of 2003, she began to have problems with kidney failure. Her kidneys had been damaged in her

earlier years of abuse and it would finally prove irreversible. But even though she was becoming more and more frail, she still managed one last heroic deed before her Star burned out. In early October of that year, she had gotten into a habit of jumping up and licking my husband’s neck. She would shiver and whine and bark. This was something she had never done before. I finally asked my husband why she was doing that and he said he had no idea. He did finally admit though, that he had a sore in his mouth and his neck hurt. He did not like her new trick at all.  I finally managed to convince him to see a dentist. The dentist recommended an immediate biopsy, which tested positive for oral cancer. The cancer required extensive surgery but thanks to Lucy, they were able to try and stop the spread of cancer. Lucy had tried to saved his life. Unfortunately Gene would live only another two years but they were full and she allowed him a time to be with us he would not have had if she had not alerted us.He lived another year and a half after Lucy died.

     At, at 1:00 PM, July 30th, 2004, Lucy’s earthly light burned out. We grieve and we miss her but we shall always think of her as “God’s little Angel Dog”, sent to be our special companion. I like to think there is a Star in the heavens above us, burning brightly tonight. A Star named Lucy.

 Copyrighted 2007

 

                         

 

 

Monday, September 29, 2014

Sadie’s Rose Petals

On a glorious morning in June of 1999, I was admiring God’s amazing handy work and daydreaming about the warm summer days ahead. The cold gray winter days had faded into spring. Spring had brought forth the colors of life and rebirth.  Roses and all the glorious summer flowers were just bursting into bloom. I was enjoying the fruits of my labors by sitting in my small patio garden and planning for the summer months ahead. Pictures of the family gatherings and outdoor summer BBQ’s were dancing in my head.

The ringing sound of my telephone would change those thoughts in an instant. Never in my wildest imaginings, could I have envisioned how very differently that summer would be. It would begin a family journey of great trials.  A journey that would be filled with fear, heartache, and tears that none of us could have foreseen on that early summer morn.

As I strolled into the kitchen to quickly catch the phone call, I had expected a cheery greeting on the other end. Immediately though, I knew by the sound of my Aunt Dories voice, something was very much amiss. Her voice was tense from struggling to control her tears. She quickly explained that her daughter (my cousin Terry) was on the way to a Trauma hospital. Her sixteen-year-old son Kelly had been in a terrible car accident. He had flat lined several times on the way to the first hospital they took him to. Their parish priest had jumped in the ambulance as it sped away. He had given Kelly the last rites. It was touch and go as to whether Kelly would survive. With a quick goodbye, we began a summer’s journey, which would take us over roads we never would have planned to travel. Roads, which would stretch our faith to the maximum and then some.

 In the days and weeks following the accident, Kelly remained in serious condition. In July they moved him to the “Children’s Hospital” in Denver, CO. Kelly was still in coma, but in Denver he was close to a larger part of our extensive family. Terry’s brothers and sisters all live there. It helped ease the burden somewhat. Terry and Dwaine (Kelly’s parents) had a large support base to help out with Kelly’s care and the hospital visits.  Terry’s sister Pam, and her family were a large part of the support team caring for Kelly. Pam’s little daughter Sadie was the littlest Prayer warrior for her cousin Kelly.  She and Kelly were very close, and even though Sadie was only six, Kelly had always been her hero.

 Through all the weeks of Kelly’s remaining in coma, Sadie made it her project to pray to her favorite saint, “St. Theresa the Little Flower.” Sadie was adamant that Saint Theresa would gain a miracle for Kelly. She knew her cousin would be well again, because she said; “St Theresa had told her so.” In return, Sadie had promised God that she too would help the missions, just like Theresa had always wanted to. We were all amused at her Mission fervor and her faithfulness to prayer.

 Sadie’s vigilance paid off. In late July, Kelly came out of coma and made remarkable progress.  We were all relieved and elated of course. As for Sadie, she took it in her usual stride. After all, St. Theresa had told her it would all be just fine.

In August, just as things were beginning to look up, another tragedy struck. My son Randy was in a car accident and also seriously injured. Again our family circle gathered in prayers and support for one another. Sadie’s “St Theresa” was our prayer companion as well. Sadie’s beloved Saint Theresa was again listening to Sadie’s childlike prayer it seemed. The last week of September it appeared as though our worlds were finally coming back to normal once again. Kelly was home and in rehab and progressing quite well. Randy was completely well and life looked wonderful again.

No one gave much thought to the minor surgery coming up for Sadie. It was just a routine Tonsillectomy so the family prayer chain just said a little prayer. We giggled at how Sadie was so brave and said St Theresa was going to make sure she could eat French Fries when she got home from the hospital. She wasn’t very happy that she would have to wait several days for the Fries, but she did like the fact she got ice cream whenever she wanted it.  The surgery was on Monday morning and she was home by that afternoon. Sadie, was just one of those children that nothing seemed to phase much. She could entertain herself for hours talking to her imaginary friends, to Saint Theresa and to Jesus.

 The following Friday began with a check-up at the doctor’s office. After that, Pam and the girls (Sadie and her sister Laney) went shopping. Pam and the girls kept finding Rose Petals on every aisle they turned into in the store. No one seemed to know where they came from. Sadie took it in stride as only a six year old can…She was sure St. Theresa had sent her Rose Petal’s for being such a good patient and dutifully not eating any French Fries when they had stopped for lunch before going back home.

 Friday night, the girls played until bedtime in their playroom. Sadie drew pictures for her Mommy and Daddy. They were the kind of children’s art, which all parents know are better than any the artist Picasso could ever create. At bedtime, Glenn and Pam listened to the girls say their nighttime prayers and everyone dutifully let Sadie say her favorite prayers to Saint Theresa and to her guardian angel. All in all, the day had been quite ordinary, except for the mysterious Rose Petals.

 At the time, I was in Marytown, IL at the retreat center. I was on a pilgrimage to offer our thanksgiving for God’s marvelous mercy and answer to our prayers that summer. From place to place in my travels I also kept finding mysterious showers of Rose Petals. On the Feast of St. Theresa, I attended a special Memorial Mass for her Feast Day. I was in awe that I was the only one allowed to take a picture of the statue. It is very old and precious, so cameras are not allowed. As I snapped the picture I found a shower of Rose Petals at my feet once again. I decided it must be a picture meant for Sadie. St. Theresa would want me to give it to her I was quite sure.

 Just as I came in the door from the airport on Sunday morning, my husband told me I needed to call my Aunt Dorie. By the way he quickly turned away with tears in his eyes, I knew something was very wrong.

With my heart in my throat, I quickly dialed the number; all the while thinking Kelly must have had another crisis. Instead, my Aunt delivered the terrible news that our little prayer warrior Sadie had died. Sadie’s scab had come off during the night and she had hemorrhaged to death. Pam found her on Saturday morning, when she went to wake her up for breakfast. Sadie was covered with blood and so was her room. It appeared she had tried to get out of bed and get to her parents in her last moments of struggling for life. But the hemorrhage was so massive; she never made it out of the room.

 Through the days that followed, we all clung to Sadie’s beloved St. Theresa to give us comfort. Losing a child is a nightmare beyond belief. Losing a child so unexpectedly has got to be even worse. For the first week Pam and Glenn were not allowed to make arrangements to bury Sadie. The police cordoned off the house as though it were a crime scene. It took and autopsy and the doctor’s surgical records to get the body released for burial. The doctor had accidentally cut the carotid artery during surgery and lasered it shut, along with the normal wound of a tonsillectomy. The doctor never mentioned the mistake that she had made during surgery. A mistake, which would take my family to our knees once more in prayer. This time the prayer was one of grief with out the hope of physical healing. They were prayers of anguish and heartbreak. We had no ability to even ask…”Why God? Why Sadie?” Although I know we all must have thought it from time to time. Sadie, ever the faithful prayer warrior would not have been pleased if we had.

 As if to punctuate Sadie’s happiness and trust in God, my Aunt found a seemingly heaven sent sign, while cleaning up the playroom before the funeral. There on the play table was Sadie’s last drawing she did of herself. She drew herself with angel wings. It was covered with those same mysterious Rose Petals and it was signed; “Sadie – I am so happy. Jesus Loves Me!”

 In the end, we have suffered and we have been blessed. We have grieved and we have mourned…but we know nonetheless, that Sadie is safe and warm. Sadie is enjoying the vision only she could see when she gave us the courage of her little prayers for our family members in need. As Pam and Glenn testified at the rosary vigil the night before the funeral…”She was ours but for a little while. God gave her to us on loan. He gave us a beautiful child to return to Him as a saint, when she was finished with her mission. The mission she accomplished much too soon for any of us. We are now the family of a Saint.”  For this we shall all continue to “Thank God.” Sadie’s mission in this life has blessed us all.

 
copyrighted 2006

Sunday, September 21, 2014

A Brothers Love


War, is never easy nor without great cost for those who serve and their families. In 1967, both of my brothers were in Vietnam. Mike, the youngest of my brothers, had joined the Marines rather than waiting to be drafted. My older brother Bill re-enlisted to serve, not so much country as to watch out for our younger brother Mike.

 

It all began early one spring morning in 1967, when my parents received a telegram from the state department, which reported that my younger brother Michael was missing in action in Vietnam. Another telegram stating that Mike had been located, but was in critical condition followed this. Shortly thereafter, a Marine officer and a chaplain arrived on my parent’s doorstep to inform us that Mike had perished from his wounds.

 

For the next twenty-four hours, our world was turned upside down. The phone lines across the country began buzzing with the news and the need to make arrangements to fly home. My oldest brother Bill was in College Station, Texas attending Texas A & M University. Bill had served his time in the Marines and was in his second year working on his degree to become an Engineer. Early the following day, my parents received a call from Japan. A call which was from my brother Mike, stating that his death was a clerical error and that he was very much alive and on the mend. He would soon be returning to the war front, when his wounds healed.

 

It was at this point that my older brother Bill decided to put college on hold and rejoin the Marines. He asked for duty in Vietnam to be with my younger brother Mike. His hope was to convince Mike to file for a transfer under the Sullivan ruling. A ruling which, allows military family members to ask for relief from hazardous duty if more than one family member is serving in the War zone.

 

Bill wanted Mike in a safer place- out of harms way- while he served in Vietnam himself. Bill had always looked out for his younger siblings, and he was determined to do so again. Of course, Mike would have no part of it. He was determined to stay the course and finish his tour of duty. Even though Bill could not persuade Mike to leave Nam, Bill decided to go forward with his re-enlistment so that they could at least be close to one another and he could watch out for our younger brother Mike.

 

The last thing my father did on the day Bill was to leave for retraining was to make sure Bill was wearing his Sacred Heart Badge. My parents had always had a special devotion to the “Sacred Heart of Christ.” They had all of us children consecrated when we were still babies. As a family tradition, we all attended the Mass in honor of the “First Friday Devotions” that were given to Saint Margaret Mary Aloque.

 

Dad handed Bill his own Sacred Heart Badge just before Bill walked out the door and said: “Son, it might not stop a bullet, but it can keep you safe along the way. Just remember, it is only as good as the faith you put with it. If you wear it as a scrap of material and you don’t follow Christ, it will be no help at all. Remember what is important…”Trust Christ” and follow Him. He will get you safely home. That is all the protection you really need.”  With that last bit of spiritual advice from my father, Bill left for boot camp wearing his Banner of Christ, Dad’s “Sacred Heart Badge.”

 

 

 

After retraining Bill landed in Vietnam on August the 21st. Sadly, the very day that Bill arrived in Vietnam, our brother Mike was again wounded and this time his wounds were much more serious. A land mine struck his amphibious mobile unit and Mike was badly burned in the explosion. Bill managed to track Mike down in a hospital in Dong Hoa within a couple of days of his arrival.  Unfortunately, because Mike’s wounds were serious and infection was a danger, Bill was not allowed in to see Mike before the Medic’s transported Mike for treatment. All Bill could do was stand outside Mike’s room and say a quick prayer for Mike’s recovery and then report for his own duty station in Da Nang.

 

 

In order not to worry the rest of us, Bill wrote letters home telling us that he was assigned to an officer in Da Nang as a clerk. He jokingly referred to his great quest to serve as being reduced to shuffling papers. That was our Bill –always protecting others from worry or fear. His ploy worked, and we believed that he was fairly safe in Da Nang. We focused our worry and prayers on our little brother Mike and his need for healing and support during his recovery. Bill seemed to be safe and we were grateful for that. All that would soon change in an instant.

 

On September the 28th, the Marines again paid a visit to my parent’s home. This time there would be no follow-up phone call saying that it was a mistake. The Marines reported that on September 21st, while on patrol, Bill’s entire unit was caught in an ambush. They were trapped in a crossfire of rocket and mortar fire. Bill managed to survive long enough for another unit to find him. Bill had received the last rites and was able to make his last confession before he expired from his wounds. Bill’s Sacred Heart Badge was enclosed with the letter.

 

Even deep in the Jungles of Vietnam… “Christ kept His Sacred Heart Promise and came to take our Bill safely home.
 I promise you in the excessive mercy of my Heart that my all-powerful love will grant to all those who receive Holy Communion on the First Fridays in nine consecutive months the grace of final perseverance; they shall not die in my disgrace, nor without receiving their sacraments. My divine Heart shall be their safe refuge in this last moment."


John 15:12,13 " Love each other as I have loved you. Greater love has no man than this, that he lay down his life for his friends."

Post script. Many years after I wrote this story I was tracked down by 2/4 Marines who survived the attack and it's wonderful to be part of their lives

Copyrighted 2005
 

 

 

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Loathing at First Sight

September 5th would have been our 50th Wedding Anniversary. Miss my wonderful Gene especially at this time of year. This story was published in Chicken Soup "True Love" in 2009


Looking at our wedding pictures always makes me giggle. I recall the young man that my brother brought home to dinner one night well over 47 years ago. It was not what one could call love at first sight. It was more like loathing at first sight. The first time I had met him was a few weeks earlier. It all began with a phone call to my high school principles office. I was a senior in High School at the time. I worked after schools at a local restaurant, as part of our school work credit program. 
This particular day, I was not scheduled to work, but Mrs. K (the owner) had called and left a message with the office that I would have to take another waitress’s place. Mrs. K was not the nicest person in the world to work for to say the least. She never asked if I was available, she just said in her message to “be there at 4:00 PM.” Since not showing up would affect my grades for graduation, there was no way I could wiggle out of the unplanned shift.   In those days, we had no cell phones, so in an emergency you had to use a payphone, if you could find one. My mother was quite the task master herself, and I found myself caught in a bit of a pickle. My mother expected me to be home immediately after school, to start dinner for our family. I tried to call my Mom at her work place, from the school office to tell her of the change in plans but was not able to reach her. Unfortunately there was no such technology as voice mail in those days. There was no way my Mom would just let it slide if she did not know of the change in my work schedule. I could count on being grounded no matter how good the excuse was, if I did not get my message through to her. All of these circumstances set up a meeting which would change the course of my life.

I had to stop for gas to make it to work and try to call her again from the gas station. Mrs. K never allowed employees to use the phone while on duty and I knew she would not budge on her rules, even though she was the one who had created the situation. Rushing out of school, I careened out of the parking lot as fast as my old “49” Ford would travel, praying the “E” for empty meant I had enough gas fumes to make it to the filling station. For emergencies, my Dad had an account at the local Shell station, where I could sign for gas, and Ed (the owner), would bill my Dad later.

Breathing a sigh of relieve, that I had made it to the Shell station without running out of gas on the roadside, I was surprised to see a total stranger running the gas station instead of Ed. The young man was quite a flirt, and took his time putting the gas in the tank, washing the windshield, checking the oil etc. I tried my best to get the young man to just put the gas in the tank and forget the other routine services, but he just kept on trying to impress me. I tried to be polite, but flirting with a strange guy was the last thing on my mind. He was seriously threatening my job and my big date for the Sweetheart dance the following day if I got grounded. After wasting several precious minutes filling the tank and trying to gain my interest, I finally told him: “Look sir, I am in a big hurry. I have to get to work. Now please put the gas on my Dads credit line in Ed’s book.” Naturally this lead to more delays as he insisted he had no idea where such a book would be or how to do it, so I had to go inside and find it behind the counter for him. I was beginning to think he wasn’t very bright. It was a red ledger, exactly where I told him he would find it, right beside the cash register.

My next big mistake was in asking him to give me a dime for the payphone, and put that on the ledger charge too. Good grief! He then began to lecture me about taking money from a stranger and other various nonsense. By that time I was furious and stomped out hurrying to get to work, and decided to try and talk Mrs. K into letting me use the phone at work. Naturally, with all the time wasted at the filling station, I was late to work and Mrs. K refused my request to use the phone. Not only that she also said I had to stay late and do clean up duty to boot. By the time I got home at mid-night my mom was fit to be tied and as I had feared I was “GROUNDED.” At this point I felt my whole world caved in all because of a rude stranger who had ruined my life. I hoped I never would lay eyes on him again.
 As luck would have it, a few weeks later, my Mom called me at school and asked me to pick up an extra pound of hamburger as we were having a guest for dinner. Sounded normal to me, so I was totally un-prepared that evening when my brother walked in the door with his new friend named Gene that he had met at the gas station. I wanted to hide in the kitchen as I was still so angry at him, but manners precluded my doing so. My mother would not allow it.
By the time the meal was over, the young man apologized for all the trouble he had caused me and he became a regular visitor in our home. When time for the Prom came, my boyfriend and I had broken up, so Gene offered to be my date. From there a loathing at first sight became a love story which resulted in 41 very happy years of marriage and three beautiful children. Obviously, I decided he wasn’t so bad after all.
       Copyrighted 2005