A Day of Remembrance

I didn’t say “Happy Memorial Day” this year. Memorial Day is not a day of celebration but of commemoration, remembering the American dead–those who have served in the military and those who have died in war.

I’ve never been to Washington, D.C., to view the monuments there, although one day I may. The Wall that Heals Vietnam Memorial Replica came to Oneonta for Memorial Day weekend. Frank and I were very moved as we viewed the wall and memorial display. We came of age during the Viet Nam Conflict. Although the people closest to us did not serve or die there, we know men who left the security our our country, leaving behind family and friends and future plans. These were not just names that died. They were people, mostly men, who gave their lives in service to our country. And we know that when the living soldiers returned home, many of them suffered name-calling and mistreatment by their fellow-Americans who did not agree with the war. Perhaps it was a conflict we should never have entered, and we know that innocent people lost their lives, but I, for one, am glad we are remembering the Viet Nam veterans for their service and sacrifice.

Each generation alive today has shared in an international conflict in some way, more recently Iraq and Afghanistan. Soldiers, men and women, have returned home suffering from physical injury, loss of comrades-in-arms, and PTSD. They struggle to reenter society and their families. Without jobs they struggle financially. Mentally and emotionally they struggle to accept their lives on home soil after the atrocities of war they have viewed and experienced. Some are left homeless and friendless.

Can we reach out to a vet we know, or to a family who has lost a loved one in combat, to show we care and recognize their sacrifice?

I think it’s okay to have picnics and be with family and friends on Memorial Day. But I like to remember why this holiday is on our calendars. Parents brought their children to the memorial in Oneonta. The ancient Israelites were told to teach their children, each generation teaching the next. Isn’t it our responsibility to do the same? Freedom isn’t free–that’s truth. We are not a perfect people, but we have something worthy of our hard work and sacrifice.

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“Lives of great men all remind us
We can make our lives sublime.
And departing, leave behind us,
Footprints on the sands of time.” -Longfellow (I think)

I remember this stanza of poetry on a get well card I received after surgery in 1960, when I was nine years old.

In 1982 my father passed away. At 72, he left a legacy of love, family, and friendships. Today his legacy continues through his children, grandchildren, and on through the fifth generation.

Since our grandson Rylen passed away in March, a cloud of grief has overshadowed me. I sometimes think about what might have been, what he might have accomplished, who he might have married, who his children might become. I know the sadness will pass, as it did after Dad died. Grief has no time limits, but life goes forward. And even with the assurance that he is with God in heaven, we all miss him.

At five years old, what kind of legacy does a person leave? What kind of footprints do you leave on the “sands of time”?

Like his grandfather, Rylen gave a lot of love. He never met a stranger, only friends. He loved his parents and sister, his extended family, and he had lots of friends. His million-dollar smile would light up the room. His sweet “hi” made the day brighter

My heart was touched by the story of a little boy Rylen met in preschool. This little boy went to see Rylen in the hospital. After a specialist explained the situation to him, he donned a gown and mask, went into the PICU room, saw the machines attached to Rylen’s body, laid his hand on Rylen’s for a few minutes, then left. When asked why he wanted to do this, the little boy said, “Because Rylen was my friend.”

Rylen made many friends. He approached life with curiosity. He knew the alphabet. He loved trains and other wheeled vehicles, and electronic devices. He loved music. Time and time again he would return to my piano when he visited. He loved to sing. He loved his sister, and liked to tease her.

These things do not sound unusual for a five-year-old. But Rylen had a physical and mental challenge: hydocephalus. His life expectancy was unknown. Instead of living the expected five minutes after birth, Rylen lived over five years. Caring for him wasn’t always easy, but I know his parents wouldn’t have traded one minute of the five plus years they spent with him.

So this little boy has left behind a legacy of love and friendship. Six people received his body organs: two adults his kidneys, two children his heart valves, and two children his corneas. Through his blog, countless lives have been touched, and through a foundation set up in his name, more will benefit.

Rylen’s physical presence has left us, but he is still with us. His memory is glued in my heart. His legacy continues, not as a great man, but as a wonderful little boy, God’s gift to us for over five years.

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Sorrow revisited

The little voice from the top of the stairs said, “One..whee…two whee.” Our grandson, visiting with his family from Texas, had learned to come down the stairs on his bottom, counting along the way. He entered the living room with a sweet, “Hi, Grandma,” and a hug.

“I love you, Rylen,” I said, as I hugged him back.

Then it was on to Grandpa. “Hi, Grandpa.” He crawled up on Grandpa’s lap and snugggled under the blanket with him.

This had become a morning ritual during the week he spent with us in November.

We have had the privilege of seeing Rylen grow and fight the physical and mental challenges that he has met every day since he was born with hydrocephalus. And to watch the faith and commitment of his parents as they cared for him.

Before his birth the doctors predicted he would not survive. And we sorrowed. But he has lived for five-and-one-half years. A sweet, friendly little boy, who loves things with wheels and buttons. Who loves his little sister, and loves new experiences.

He began preschool in January. He loved school.

He is now fighting for his life in the hospital. We are sad for his pain and suffering. We are sad because we will no longer hear, “Hi, Grandma. Hi Grandpa.” He is totally in God’s hands.

In his short life, Rylen has touched the hearts of many people And I am sure he will continue to do so. But we are sorrowing again, and thankful for the prayers of so many for all of us.

Love your children while they are yours to love. Hug them and say “I love you” everyday.

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Love means action, not just romantic thoughts

I’ve thought a lot about the meaning of Valentine’s Day. We have never made a lot of the day since grade school. We commemorate it in small ways: cards, chocolates, flowers, maybe a special dessert.

Many celebrate romantic love on Valentine’s Day. I believe that we should also celebrate the love between friends and relatives. There are some pretty sappy expressions of love, but true love comes from God, for God is love.

True love means action, just as God showed His love for us by sending His Son to die for our sins and rise again to give us eternal life. The apostle John expressed it this way in his first letter: 1John 3:1 “Behold what manner of love the Father has bestowed upon us, that we should be called children of God.” – 3:16 “By this we know love, because He laid down His life for us.” – 4:7 “Beloved, let us love one another, for love is of God, and everyone who loves is born of God and knows God.” – 4:19 “We love Him because He first loved us.”

Showing love is for everyday. A telephone call, a note, a visit, or any other act of kindness can be love in action. We can always find someone to reach out to in love. Valentine’s Day is for everyone, whether married or single, old or young.

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Life Goes On

Life goes on. And whether or not our school children remember or our college students know what really happened, 9-11-01 changed life in America. On one hand it made us painfully aware of other parts of the world, made us aware of our vulnerability in today’s world, and it brought great suffering to many of our countrymen and women. On the other hand it made us temporarily united as a people and caused us to become aware of the work and sacrifice of our First Responders. I suppose it is only natural to put cataclysmic events behind us so we can go forward with our lives, but it’s a shame we forget so quickly.

I am saddened by the division caused by the moral and spiritual battles our country faces today. Most of the time it is easier to fight the enemy from without than the enemy from within. “A house divided against itself falls.”

Life goes on. Let’s remind one another of the experiences and lessons of history. Let’s remember the sacrifices others have made to keep us free. Let’s take responsibility for our freedoms. Let’s protect what makes our country good.

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Thoughts on Father’s Day

Many people tell me I’m blessed to still have my mother, and I agree.

I am also blessed to have many good memories of my father. Leukemia took his life in 1982. Like all fathers, he was not a perfect man, but he was faithful and loving to his family.

But when I think of my blessings in having a good dad, I know there are so many children, young and old, who do not have good memories of their fathers. Single moms heading one-parents families are common today. Some fathers are absentees, choosing to have nothing to do with the responsibilities of caring for their children. Some fathers have decided their careers or making a lot of money is more important. Some fathers think their job is to be a dictator, or they use verbal, physical, and sexual abuse to control their children.

I thought of this when I wrote Father’s Day greetings on Facebook this year.

My prayer is that you fathers will remember how much your children (and your wife) need you to take your responsibility to care for, love, and provide for them. And that you children will have the opportunity to heal the broken relationship with your fathers.

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A Day for Remembrance

Many years ago I marched in the Memorial Day parade in my home town as a member of the high school band, along with veterans, Boy and Girl Scouts, and various other groups. We’d stop at the Susquehanna River to remember those who died at sea, with the casting of a floral wreath into the water and a twenty-one gun salute. Then we’d march to the cemetery, where we’d salute the war dead with taps, speeches, and a twenty-one gun salute. Today many activities fill a Memorial Day commemoration, some related to the purpose of Memorial Day and some not. I still like to attend the ceremonies to help me remember the sacrifice of so many so I can live in freedom.

Today, with the erosion of Constitutional freedoms, the loss of rights guaranteed by the Bill of Rights, and the balance of power among the branches of the Federal government askew, is a good time for remembrance. War is not glorious, but at times it becomes necessary. (Imagine where we’d be if Hitler had not been stopped.) The act of self-sacrifice on the part of the members of our military should be remembered. Memorial Day is to remember the dead, but I think there is plenty of room to thank the living who returned.

As a living American who reaps the benefits of their service and sacrifice, I want to be a faithful steward of the freedoms with which the United States has been blessed.

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