It’s Memorial Day here in Huntington, West Virginia. Adam and I arrived in the USA on 21 May to attend a memorial for my brother, Kevin which was on 24 May 2014. It was a very hard day for all of us who knew him. This Memorial Day is layered for us with sweet and bittersweet memories.
Lisa, Kevin’s wife, Sandy, his step-daughter, Piper, their faithful dog, Adam and I went to Ritter Park to enjoy the weather as well as lunch that we picked up from Arby’s. We watched the things going on around us. I got a thrill seeing a squirrel. I even recorded a video of a squirrel munching on a curly fry. I wanted to share this with Australians or anyone else who never got to see a squirrel munch on a curly fry. It seems like it’s been over 5 years since I saw a squirrel and to see one eating a fry was just really special to me.
It was great to see families out enjoying the day. Memorial Day in the USA is a day when the military is remembered for their service to the USA during war and peace time. It is a lot like Anzac Day for Australians. There are parades around the nation. I got to listen to Lisa and Sandy reminisce and I even reminisced about Kevin too. I got to walk where his feet trod.
I hadn’t seen Kevin in over 20 years. We had tried to tee up meeting together when I would return stateside but something always happened and our best laid plans went down the gurgler. I regret not being able to see him again in person. The pain of my loss is very raw. It is easier though being with his family. It was good being together with my siblings even though it was a sad occasion. My brother Chuck did a wonderful eulogy for Kevin. I wanted to cheer and clap. My sister Judy also stood up and spoke some touching words about Kevin. I just couldn’t manage it at the moment. I wish I could write more about him. Words though just can’t seem to do justice for the way I feel about Kevin. It’s something I find hard to express. I think my poem Hero was the best I could do. I guess I could have stood up and read that but in that moment I just didn’t have the strength to do so.
This Memorial Day for me was filled with laughter. We didn’t cry today. I know we will still have tears. It’s part of the grieving process. I will always miss my brother. I will always remember this Memorial Day because for me and I hope for Lisa and Sandy, this Memorial Day seemed to have many different meanings. I will never forget this Memorial Day because it was a treasure to be with the ones Kevin loved.
Sometimes you think that you don’t really influence things around you or impact others but I came to a realization the other day after reading on Facebook about the death of a former coach whom I had as a homeroom teacher when I was in Seventh grade. Coach Causey was a really awesome teacher. He inspired a lot of students. I was really shook up and still can feel the effects of knowing he’s not back in Leesville. I feel so sad for his family because if I feel this bad, I can imagine how much worse it is for them since I have lost my own parents. I have an inkling of the sense of loss that they are going through at this exact moment.
The role of the teacher is quite important in my eyes. Although I don’t have qualifications as a teacher through university training I have done scripture teaching in Australia voluntarily for a few years. I have stopped for now because I am doing a sort of hiatus on that. I felt strange teaching scripture in a public classroom even though the parents have chosen for the children to attend the half hour course that our parish church provided for the area where I lived. I found it very daunting at times because when I grew up in the United States, it was a no go zone. In the first amendment of the Constitution Thomas Jefferson wrote about separation of church and state. In some ways, I totally get where he is coming from because the government doesn’t have a right to dictate to its citizens how they should or shouldn’t worship God. It’s up to the individual to do so which is another reason why I pondered the decision to continue teaching the children in public school. The government didn’t supply the scripture teachers with any funds. It was truly up to the parents to decide if they wanted the child to go to the classes. There was separation of church and state to the fullest extent but I still felt funny. When I tried explaining my feelings to some of my colleagues they just didn’t quite get what I was trying to say. I suppose it’s because you had to experience living with the concept of separation of church and state. It’s like trying to explain to a natural-born Australian why Americans think it’s their God-given right to bear arms (not all Americans do but a majority would rather die than contemplate giving up guns because they feel so strongly about this constitutional right.) You just have a mindset that feels ingrained. I know I am making a huge generalization here but if the shoe fits, by golly, I am going to wear it. For me it’s like trying to explain mateship if you have never been to an Anzac Day presentation, you just have to be there to experience the camaraderie that Australians have down to a tea. One of the things I really treasure about Australia is how relaxed they can be. They know not to take things too seriously but they also know when to be serious. I find growing up in the United States that some Americans can be very narrow minded or think they are better than others because they were born in the best country in the free world. I know I was guilty of this impression myself for the longest time until I decided to move across the Pacific Ocean to be with the man I loved. It was getting away from the USA that I actually found the scales of close- sightedness fell off of me.
I feel as if I have digressed here but I am hoping to tie this all together because even my generalizations have a lasting imprint. Coach Causey had a great love for the USA. I don’t think he had ever left Vernon Parish but he really understood to the best of his ability about the sacrifice Americans have done to try and protect their country for their future generations. In his own way, he left a lasting imprint on me and I am sure on many others who were fortunate to be taught by him. He instilled pride and respect to me about the great country of my birth. My own father served his country to the best of his ability.
In every life we come across, we do leave a lasting imprint. Sometimes the imprint maybe of love and happiness. Sometimes the imprint maybe of hurt and pain but I really hope that the lasting imprint I leave behind is of compassion, forgiveness, and love. In the end that is what I really want to strive for leaving a lasting imprint of love, peace, and tolerance.
What would you like to leave as a lasting imprint for future generations?
This is a photo of my father taken I know not when but I am assuming when he was stationed in Korea. Today he died 21 years ago. In two years, it will be the 23rd anniversary of his passing. It occurred to me the same amount of time from his passing will be the same age I was when he passed away in two years.
Sometimes time just slips by and you don’t notice how quickly it has gone. Time does heal old wounds. It dulls it a bit but at times, I seem to notice the wound more especially on birthdays, anniversaries, and memorials. My memories of Daddy are mixed to say the least. He did the best he could. He used to say he was god in the house. He used the Lord’s name in vain and blasted us if we followed that example.
Daddy used to say he was glad he had 3 girls because we all look like him. I think of us 3 youngest girls, I look the most like him. I was his helper. I loved helping him outside with the yard or the animals we had. I know he wanted to be a veterinarian. I wanted to be one too except, I didn’t follow through. Daddy loved to sing songs with different words. I find myself doing that too. Daddy had a huge ego. I don’t have a huge ego. I am a lot more humble than he ever was.
I know Daddy is with me always. He really treasured Cassie, Margaret’s daughter, because he always called her his little angel. I know he would be proud of her too. I know he watches over us. He may not have been perfect but he loved us the best way he could.
Daddy this song is for you! The years fly by but I hear you sometimes in my dreams. I always think of you fondly! Much love always!