Sometimes we just need the reminder. Happy Friday!
Sometimes we just need the reminder. Happy Friday!
My Great Uncle was killed in action in 1944 – but it is the letters from “the enemy” that make this a remarkable story.
My Great Uncle was born in 1924 and enlisted in the Canadian Army Dental Corps in December, 1942. He needed his parents’ permission to join because he was only 17. He re-mustered to the Royal Canadian Air Force in 1942 and headed overseas to the United Kingdom in August 1943. He was attached to the Royal Air Force and went missing in action in 1944, at the age of 20.
It was several months of agonizing waiting before his family found out what had happened. My Great-Uncle had been the rear gunner in an Avro Lancaster went missing during a night operation in France. The rear gunner was in a “bubble” on the underside of the airplane. I was with my Grandfather when he toured the inside of an Avro Lancaster a few years ago, and he kept remarking over and over how tight the space was for the rear gunner. My Great-Uncle had been over 6′ tall.
Most of the crew members, all R.A.F., were also killed. The other crew members were Canadian – one was taken as a Prisoner of War, and one escaped with the assistance of the French underground and returned to England. The POW’s report stated that the plane was heading to its target and came under heavy fire. They barely missed colliding with another Lancaster that was on fire. Shortly thereafter, a fire broke out inside the plane. The pilot sent others to assist with the fire. When the controls burned out and the plane started into a vertical dive, he forced himself out of the window with a parachute. He woke up on the ground with a broken leg and cracked skull, and was captured by the Germans.
Shortly after the war, the first letter arrived from Germany, from the medic who had attended my Great-Uncle following the plane crash.
Dear family R.,
perhaps you will ask yourself why I wrote to you. I had so many addresses that I had unfortunately to destroy. But I guarded your address like a sanctuary, for a great sympathy united me with your son. In your son I saw a Canadian sportsman, he reminded me of the ice-hockey games Canada Germany in the Berlin sport-palace. And so I am very glad that I can give you any information. It was permitted me to return home after a military-time of long years and an imprisonment of one year, where my young wife awaited me. On the 30th of January my little boy has his first birthday. He is giving us very much pleasure, and so we forget many a trouble and sorrow that oppress us deeply today. I now hope that these lines will give you a small consolation in your grief, and we should be very glad to hear from you again. We should like to send you the pocket-lighter, if you want. We send you the kindest regards, Yours very sincerely, E. P. and family.
My Great-Grandparents wrote back, and received this second letter:
Dear Family R.
By your dear lines I now have the confirmation that you are the parents of Mr. R. I thank you very much for the nice letter, and I am very happy that you call me your friend, and in this friendship I want to report you truly everything what I know of the death of your son. In June 1944 we had our airfield near the village … in northern France. On the 24lb June 1944 at about 23 hours, a heavy air attack ensued on our anti-aircraft position and the neighbouring V-position. At this raid German night-fighters were put in, and in a few minutes a heavy airbattle developed in the nightly sky. In the course of this battle the bombing aircraft of your son must have been heavily damaged. After the air-battle I got the order to search the near environs for the dead and injured persons, and there I found your son. He was lying alone about 300 m from our position, and as I still remarked weak signs of life I called for medical assistance, but it was all in vain, with low words I could not understand, unfortunately, your son died in my arms. My thoughts were in his native country with his relatives. We had became comrades; for tomorrow already I could have had the same fate. So I closed the eyes to your son and said: May God give you the eternal rest. I suppose that your son died by the consequences of the inner injuries he got by the fall. The parachute had taken fire and was not opened, the occiput[sic] had a small injure. The next morning I had to take off all the things of the dead persons and must give them to a German burial-commission that had to send them on to the Red Cross. Therefore I am very much astonished that you did not received the last things of your son. On the 26th June 1944, we brought your son to his last place of rest. He is lying with other comrades on the churchyards “…”. I am going to mark the place for you by an enclosed sketch. I assure you that we buried your son as well as every German comrade. A plain cross of wood with name, day of death and number of recognition adorns his soldier-grave. Herewith I also want to pronounce my sincerest condolence to you.
Some time following this letter, Mr. P. visited my Great-Grandparents and returned a few of my Great-Uncle’s possessions. I find it remarkable, that in a time when tensions still ran high between different nations, that this medic reached out to a small farmer’s family in an attempt to bring them peace.
My Great-Uncle’s fiancée never married. Nearly every year my Grandfather would attend the Remembrance Day Ceremony on November 11th, and the cenotaph in town…to remember. Grandpa would touch his brother’s name on the cenotaph and leave his poppy at its base.
We took him to see a Lancaster bomber in the early 1990s. Grandpa walked around that plane several times before we went inside. Over and over, he’d shake his head and mumble “isn’t that something”. It wasn’t until we moved to the rear gunner’s position that he started to share. “My brother was really skinny and over 6′ tall. How could he possibly fit in there?”, he chuckled. “He would have had his knees in his face”. Then his smile faded and his eyes welled with tears. He looked at me and tried to say something but he was too emotional, so we just held a quiet memorial there, before he commented “isn’t that something” and turned to go.
My Grandpa is gone now, but his family, we will always remember…
“You have heard that it was said, ‘Love your neighbor and hate your enemy.’ But I tell you, love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, that you may be children of your Father in heaven.” -Matthew 5:43-44a
Recently, a blogger friend celebrated 8 years of marital bliss. He shared how they met and how “crazy in love” he still is about her. After a miserable first marriage and a lot of sucky stuff, I’m happy that he has someone (and something) to celebrate: Love.
Hubby and I celebrated 20 years of marriage in June and we had talked about going to Italy (so we could put our hours of learning vocab. and conjugating verbs in Italian to the real test)…but finances and timing got in the way. Then the world started going crazy over there: a lack of love.
Instead, Hubby surprised me with 20 long stemmed red roses, and immediately made me pose with them so we could post the picture on FB. I doubt he was looking for a gold-star from our handful of friends; perhaps he wanted to show off his prettiest “Rose”? I kinda love that guy – he makes me laugh.
Those roses were very much like the ones I carried on our wedding day, very much like those carried by the grandmother I also said good-bye to in June. I would have worn her dress or her veil too, but they were lost in a fire at her parents’ just after they married. Thankful they only lost things. In 63 years, they never lost their love for each other.
My grandfather wanted the title, “Oldest Married Couple” at the Fair but was too shy to speak up. I’m so thankful I did. Grandpa wasn’t with us the next summer. He was so proud of that certificate!
We knew he would have to die before her. He adored his bride. I remember watching him watching her in their later years. She was singing in the church choir on an ordinary Sunday morning, his face positively beaming. He only had eyes for her. Without her, he would have curled his 6’ frame into a ball and died of a broken heart.
Coming home last weekend, I popped in a cd I haven’t listened to in awhile. And when one song started to play, I remembered…
“…went to bed I was thinking about you, I wanna talk and laugh like we used to. When I see you in my dreams at night, it’s so real but it’s in my mind…”
I had been listening to that same song in the car just after he died. It had been at the beginning of a long weekend and some family had gathered to hold vigil with Grandma until we could have the service, our final tribute.
Grandma seemed to sleep a lot that weekend – physically and emotionally exhausted after weeks of sitting in the hospital, confident he would get better and return to her.
Don’t wake me ’cause I don’t wanna leave this dream
Don’t wake me ’cause I never seem to stay asleep enough
When it’s you I’m dreaming of, I don’t wanna wake up
She kissed him at the funeral home. She kissed him over and over. Held his hands. Whispered in his ear and smiled. Love.
* * *
My red roses only lasted a few days, wilting in the heat. I did my best to keep them going – fresh water, trimmed stems, a little sugar. As beautiful as they were, it was what they represent that’s worth my time and attention.
Love goes deeper than roses on special occasions or tributes on a blog. It is more than the kind heralded in bad country songs or smeared across the tabloids. It is more vast than a skywriter’s “paper” and deeper than the blue in Matthew McConaughey’s eyes. It endures through the sucky stuff and looks to give the best to the other (even when you’re not too sure about the other). It is worth guarding, tending, and celebrating…every day…over a lifetime.
Even on an ordinary Monday morning…
This has been a “10 Minute Monday” post (where I write about whatever I want for a minimum 10 minutes, no editing – mayhem, memories, maudlin mumblings, or “mwa ha ha” moments).
Watching someone you love grow old and slip away is painful. It seems special memories flood in at times and threaten to shift the precarious balance of reason and emotion at the worst possible moments.
As difficult as it has been for me as a granddaughter to see the changes in my grandmother these past few years, as dementia corrode her mind and body, I have been amazed at the strength and grace of my mother. Being that much closer to her, she has observed each change more keenly, and must feel the loss that much greater.
Last week, as I sat in the hospital, I watched my Mom. It will forever be one of those moments that took my breath away and if there is ever a time in my life when I am struggling to comprehend the depth and breadth of love, one for another, I will think of it. It was love and tenderness in its purest form; it captured my soul and I was transfixed. I felt like a voyeur, that I wasn’t worthy to share this beautiful, intimate moment.
As Nana’s tiny form lay swaddled in her hospital bed, her eyes drowsy, Mom simply stood by her. She stroked her hair; she kissed her forehead. When Nana looked at her, Mom simply smiled and spoke gently to her. It was enough – just to be present.
Tenderness. Peace. Trust. Devotion. Sacrifice.
We sing about it in bad country songs, and trumpet it in the tabloids, but in our fast-paced world, do we really understand what those words mean? Are we willing to take the time? Do we understand what it costs?
We are waiting now, at peace knowing that she is in God’s Hands, soon to be in God’s presence. I know it cost my Mom, but she will never regret the time spent.
“How much do you love me?” Little Guy asks me from time to time.
It started long before we read the book “Guess How Much I Love You” by Sam McBratney. In it, Little Nutbrown Hare and Big Nutbrown Hare try to outdo each other in expressing how much they love each other. Sometimes I answer the same as Big Nutbrown Hare: “to the moon and back”.
But one time I answered as simply and truthfully as I could: “I love you so much I would die for you. I wouldn’t hesitate”.
Everything around us suddenly became very quiet, very serious. I looked back into the rear seat of the car, now parked with the ignition off because I needed to see his face. I stared into his large blue eyes staring back at me, and I wondered what he was thinking…
I was around his age, when I asked the same question. I was watching a movie with my Mom. In it, the family was trying desperately to escape an erupting volcano, and in one scene, they were trapped in a boat on a lake of boiling water. They were all going to die…until the Grandmother jumped out of the boat and pushed the others safely to shore. “I don’t know if I could do that,” I told my Mom. “You could,” she said, “if you’re family was in danger and you could do something to save them, you would”.
I would walk through fire, brave the north atlantic, or crawl through a pit of large, hairy, poisonous spiders to get to him (that last one alone speaks volumes)!
If someone or something was hurting him, I would gladly bear the pain in his place.
I would fight back, using whatever I could find. My bare hands if I had to. Even if it meant using all my strength, or my last breath. I could kill if I had to…I wouldn’t hesitate.
Making the decision to have a child – it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” – Elizabeth Stone
“How much do you love me?”
Little Guy doesn’t know that my greatest fear is not the dark or spiders; it’s losing him, that he would find himself frightened and hurt at the mercy of a stranger. If God should choose to take him home, I want to be there. I want to hold him and comfort him, and usher him into the arms of Jesus. It’s an instinctive part of being a parent, to want to safeguard our children against the monsters that really do exist and to stand in the gap to protect them. With everything we’ve got…
Little Guy is at an age when he’s trying to comprehend the height and length, the depth and breadth of love. It’s hard for him to understand how love can be limitless, given without reservation. To be as much a part of you as your arms and legs, or the air in your lungs.
I can remember trying to figure all that out too.
I stared into his wide blue eyes staring back at me, and I wondered what he was thinking. And then he smiled, “I love you too Mom”.
“For I would wander weary miles,
Would welcome ridicule, my child,
To simply see the sunrise of your smile.”
– Michael Card, Sunrise of Your Smile
Valentine’s Day is just around the corner…that glorious holiday when we’re supposed to celebrate love…
It arrives exactly 52 days after Christmas (which means if you disappointed your partner with your Christmas gift, this is a great way to remind them of that disappointment, or to just disappoint them again!) It also arrives in the middle of frigid February…just weeks before the suicide rate starts to climb. We’re surrounded by cute matching couples with cute matching expressions, an Ikea-type of love. A heart-shaped minefield.
There have just been too many bad Valentine’s Days. For example:
February 14, 1980-something. My “best” friend, handed me a paper valentine and told me that she was only giving me one because her mother was making her.
February 14, 1980-something. S. asked me to be his girlfriend, and when I told my friends, they didn’t believe me. And then he denied he had asked me and said I made it all up.
February 14, 1990 Friends brought me chocolate cake to help me get over a break up. Big Guy was 19 days old.
February 14, 1991 – my guy friend offered to call me on Valentine’s Day to cheer me up (and I had a huge crush on him), but I knew he was hanging out with his girlfriend that night, and while I appreciated his offer, I didn’t want to come between them. So I told him not to call. They are married now with 3 teenagers!
February 14, 1992 – my mother bribed me with a new red dress so I wouldn’t wear black…plus I had a date. And I was actually excited…until he cancelled because his parents had just moved and he had to drive to his hometown to find them.
February 14, 1994 – I called my new boyfriend after 11 p.m., cheap time, to wish him a Happy Valentine’s Day, and found out he had no intention of calling me or sending a card, because I would “expect that”. Huh?
February 1997 – I was fixing a special dinner to celebrate with new husband when I received a phone call that my best friend had died in a car accident. Ironically, she was on her way to a Bereavement Group meeting.
February 14, 2000 – Big Guy and I had the flu and Hubby was recovering from having his wisdom teeth removed.
If only I could have feasted “upon the unicorn enchilada” to “gain its enchilada power”. I could have saved myself so much grief…
I try not to let the hype get to me, nor do I let the pendulum swing so far that I’m completely cynical about love about romance. Afterall, it’s my favourite holiday – right between Christmas chocolate and Easter chocolate. It’s a holiday when I wear black and blast the song “Love Stinks” in my car. It’s that time of year when I roll my eyes at all sappy the diamond commercials and sweet “nothings” whispered publicly on Facebook. And I eat pizza…with extra cheese.
Celebrate your way…and I’ll celebrate mine! Happy Weekend!
This week’s challenge was to take a photo of a “trio”. I chose to play around with 3 different arrangements using my wedding ring and my grandmother’s wedding rings. My grandfather died when I was only 3 – my earliest memory is his wake at the farm house. My grandmother was only 62. She never remarried and she wore her wedding ring for the rest of her life. It’s been almost a year since she passed away and I miss her.
“Love at first sight is easy to understand; it’s when two people have been looking at each other for a lifetime that it becomes a miracle.” – Sam Levenson
To see more Trio photos, click here.
We are called to do it, but our nature rebels against it. Sometimes we rebel our whole lives.
Love your enemy. Pray for your enemy. Forgive your enemy.
Our natural reaction when someone hurts us, it to hurt them back. We seek revenge. We hold on to our hurts. We poison our minds, our bodies, our relationships. Our pride wants us to be right, not do what is right.
If someone slaps you on the cheek, turn to them the other cheek.
If anyone forces you to go one mile, go with them two miles.
Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you…
Last year, on Remembrance Day, I wrote about the Letter from a German Medic, which my great-grandparents received shortly after the war. It amazes me that this “enemy” took the time to locate them and to write such personal letters. He provided details that soothed their aching hearts. They called him “friend” and soothed his heart…
Love your enemies.
It applies to Little Guy in the school yard. It applies to me in the school parking lot. It applies to those who are different from us. It applies to us in a world that thrives on dominance, hatred and pride.
Grace. Mercy. Prayer. Love.
I need it. My enemy needs it too.
There are several tell-tale signs of an imminent meltdown. One would be wise to become well-acquainted with them before getting seriously involved with someone and/or having children! They can include one or more of the following: a hot, red face, tight lips, weepy eyes, clenched fists, over-sensitivity to the little things, and an overall “bad” attitude.
Sometimes you just need a hug.
A few weeks ago, I had to make a trip to pick up a few items at the grocery store after I picked Little Guy up from school. But through the whole 10 minute drive in the car, Little Guy was a black rain cloud. He grumbled and complained, and questioned why we had to go now because he wanted to go home. By the time we parked in the lot, I had a cloud hanging over my head too. I got out of the car and calmly snapped that he could choose to be pleasant or unpleasant, but we were still going inside.
He got out the car reluctantly and as I came around to his side, I noticed the red face and the weepy eyes and I knew…sometimes you just need a hug. As I put my arms around this child with an unlovely attitude, he buried his face in my chest and took a deep breath. And we just stood there while some women hustled by us, looking in our direction, confused. I didn’t care. It turns out he’d had a “mean” supply teacher that day, he had tripped over a big rock and hurt his knee, and “some other stuff” that he couldn’t remember. I thought he was anxious to get home to play on the Xbox, but instead he just wanted the safety and security of “home”.
I understand. When life starts to bustle and the deadlines and “to-do” list starts to pile up, and when everything seems to go wrong and I’m just plain weary, I crave the peace and comfort of home too. Michael Card said it best: “Home is a comfort and home is a light, a place to leave the darkness outside. Home is a peaceful and ever full feeling, a place where the soul safely hides.”**
I enlisted Little Guy’s help in choosing some of the items I needed to pick up after we took time to admire the cake and dessert cases! We also picked up a cookie kit with icing and sprinkles. After we got home, Little Guy thanked me for turning a bad day into a great day.
Sometimes you just need a hug!
That’s my Daddy, at the top of that ladder, battling one of the largest and worst fires in my hometown. My Mom has admitted that in the 34 years he was a firefighter, despite all the calls in the middle of the night and on the stormiest days, that was the only time that she was really afraid for him. I was 2 years old and oblivious…
Even though this photograph makes him appear “larger than life”, my Dad is quiet and shy, with an amazing ability to fix just about anything (except maybe broken hearts). He isn’t the “snuggle & cuddle” type, but has patiently endured millions of hugs & kisses from me! But I have never doubted that he loves me.
He showed it in little ways:
Sometimes when he stopped at the store to get milk, he’d buy me gum.
He helped me finish my Grade 8 sewing project, and he took me for rides on his motorcycle.
When we had lunch at the fire station, he’d give me change to buy Dr. Pepper from the machine.
He’d clean the snow off my car in the mornings, and he helped me keep it running.
He let me drive his car while he drove mine that one week I had no muffler (and my car was embarrassingly loud)!
One year he was away for my birthday, but he called just to talk to me.
He took me to my first figure skating competition (a whole Friday night with whiny little girls in sparkly dresses) where I won my first medal, and he sat through my school play in Grade 6 (I can still do the “twist”).
He showed it in big ways:
I had my “baby bed buddy” with me when I was staying in the hospital with Big Guy after his first surgery. Unfortunately, the nurse scooped it up with the bedding when we were endlessly walking the halls. I called home that night (long distance) in tears. My dad found out where the laundry went and he contacted them. He told them his “little girl” had lost her bed buddy and they said they’d keep an eye out for it. They called the next day…and he picked it up, whiter than it had been in years! He was too embarrassed to mention that his “little girl”… was 18!
When I moved away from home, I couldn’t bring my cat, Mousie, with me so she stayed with my parents. The weekend I was home for my best friend’s funeral, I noticed how frail she had become. While I was at the funeral home, my Dad took Mousie to the vet. The vet wanted to put her down, but my Dad told him that his daughter “had already lost her best friend this weekend” and he didn’t want to take my other best friend away too. I don’t know how much he paid for medicine to keep her comfortable, and it wasn’t until a few weeks later that I found out why he had asked me, when it was time to go back to the city, if I had said good-bye. He knew she was dying…and according to Mom, Dad was the one who pampered her the most in her last days.
Sometimes he drove me crazy, like when he taught me how to drive and we spent, what seemed like an eternity, driving around the empty grocery store parking lot. And he hurt my feelings when walking home from figure skating, he didn’t want to walk arm in arm to “practice for my wedding” (Mom explained later that he didn’t want to think about his little girl growing up)!
And then there was that one time on that ladder truck, the same one from the photograph. Dad told me to climb half-way up. Then, as the ladder was raised into the air, I could feel the warmth of his body behind me, the breeze moving my hair, and rooftops as far as I could see. It was amazing!!
Thanks Dad, for loving me in big ways and small ways…and in more ways than I have space to write. Happy Father’s Day!
Hugs & kisses.
"Whatever you are not changing, you are choosing." —Laurie Buchanan
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