My husband and I were standing at our living room window, watching a man walking down the distant road. The man lived nearby in a broken down house. Every day he walked two miles to a neighborhood bar where he spent his time.
“Night fell, darkness hid the two from sight”
He worked at walking.
Stumbling, weaving, tumbling, falling…
Each night at dusk he headed home, deaf to traffic sounds.
Reeling into roadside ditch, he lay upon the ground in bleak half-conscious stupor.
With effort, he crawled laboriously to the ditch’s edge, then worked at walking once again. The man continued through his nightly ritual.
A friend approached the sodden hulk; bending down, he knelt beside the fallen man. With steady arms, the friend began THE RESCUE.
The friend was not a hero. I was a bystander. Though years have passed, the vivid scene remains.
Whose life was changed? Whose journey reached a crossroad? Whose path was interrupted by a chance encounter? Was it the man? Was it the friend? Was it me?
Many years have passed since this incident took place.
My husband and I were standing at our living room window, watching a man walking down the distant road. The man lived nearby in a broken down house. Each day he walked two miles to a neighborhood bar where he spent his time.
We didn’t usually see him traveling on the way to his daily destination. Nor did we see him when he was going home. But this day, we saw him walking home. As we watched, he staggered and stumbled, falling into the deep ditch beside the road.
For moments he was out of our sight. Then, we saw him crawling out of the ditch and struggling to his feet. Walking a few steps, he fell once more. Once more, he crawled up the side of the ditch on his hands and knees and attempted to stand.
I became aware my husband had left my side. Now, in his truck, he was driving down our driveway toward the distant road. I saw him stop at the place where the man was lying beside the ditch. Getting out of his truck, he approached the figure.
Taking him by the arm, he helped the man to his feet.
My husband later told me he intended to help the man into the cab of the truck, but he protested. “I’m not clean enough to sit in your truck. Help me into the back. I’ll ride home there.”
As this scene unfolded before my eyes, I was surely not aware it would be in my memory and my heart many years later.
How many of us, including me, would leave the comfort of our own home to help a drunken, smelly man get safely to his home?
This was a view of my husband about which I wasn’t aware. Yes, he was kind, gentle and caring. The scene I watched was more than that.
The experience changed me. Maybe it has changed you.
At this stage of life it has become clear to me, we all need to be rescued.
Our Friend is on His way.
In later years, as we discussed the incident, facts revealed themselves about the man who was rescued.
He was a veteran from World War 2.
As years have passed, we’ve become aware of the experiences our soldiers endured during that time of war.
They were too horrible to remember.
We now call it PTSD.
It has been found, for some of the veterans, it is easier to drink away the memories than to relive them in their minds.
In our village, there were three World War 2 veterans who spent their days at the same local bar. The world called them drunks. Should we call them heroes?
He carried a small pillow under his arm. I wondered why.
Together they sat in the front pew, listening attentively.
One Sunday, as the service ended, Mary’s husband stood to leave. The pillow he had carried under his arm now lay on the church pew where he had placed it.It showed two dents from his hipbones.
A World War 1 veteran, Don had been gassed during the time of his service to our country. He was frail and attentive and attended the worship service with Mary every Sunday.
I would never have known Mary had it not been for attending the same church as she and her husband, Don. She was a faithful worshiper Together, the two entered the sanctuary each Sunday.
Leaving quietly without conversation, they offered a nod and smiles to those who greeted them.
Mary was a tall woman. On Sunday morning, she was always attired in her Sunday best.
In winter, a bandanna around her head saved her from the cold and rain. Old-fashioned rubber boots protected her from the elements when necessary.
Mary would never know the lasting impression she made on my life, and surely on the lives of others. Her faithful love of the Lord, deep affection for her husband and two sons, and respect for the flag of our country was a lesson for many if they would only observe.
She never served on a committee at church, but attended every meeting. Having no vehicle, she walked the distance to the meetings from her home, a mile away at that time.
One special meeting was scheduled to discuss the building of a new church. It was held on a summer evening. We gathered in the basement of our old church, and Mary was there.
The idea of our small congregation taking on this large project had been discussed for some time. During a moment of quiet in the meeting, Mary reached in her old worn purse, pulling out a wrinkled bill. As she laid it on the table, she said,
“There’s your first dollar”. The project was underway.
One January morning, church services were cancelled due to a blizzard. It was dangerous to ask the parishioners to venture into the storm.
I felt warm and cozy as I sat in my living room watching only a few cars driving down the highway.
Then I saw Mary.
She was walking toward church, carrying her Bible. The ever present cold weather scarf was tied under her chin. Her long wool coat now offered protection from the blowing snow. I felt ashamed. I didn’t live as far from the church as Mary.
I had a car. Mary was walking. I was relaxing in my nice warm house. The scene has stayed with me for many years.
Recalling another dreary day, as I was driving home, I saw Mary walking in the heavy rain. Carrying her Bible, she was heading toward home.
I stopped to give her a ride and asked her where she’d been. “I was at a Bible study at the church”, she said.
As she climbed out of the car in front of her house, the rain was increasingly heavy. Thanking me for the ride, she walked over to their flag pole. Carefully retrieving our American flag from the pouring rain, she folded it, and took it into her home.
Mary’s favorite saying was; “God knows all about it!”
Reverend Jim once commented, “If it were possible to ride into heaven on someone’s coattails, I’d choose Mary.”
I hoped that Mary would have enough room on those coattails for me.
“God resists the proud, but gives grace to the humble”
The older you grow the greater is your responsibility toward life, society, and the two people who created you, your Mother and Father.
To Don..from Bill….
April 22, 1930 – February 24, 2017
Note: To be opened the last morning you are at sea on going home to the USA.
16 February 1953
When I came overseas many moons ago, I was sent with a letter from my Mother. In it she stated how on long voyages years ago, people were sent with ship messages. There was then an age of letter writing which seems to have passed, except for the ghosts that may rove the skeleton of some long lost ship. There was then wind in the sails and the creak of the boards of the ship at night. There could be heard the rustle of silk in women’s dresses.
Men and women were probably doing just as we do today if given the opportunity. That is, jumping from bunk to bunk.
Right now, right at this living moment, I am writing this on the usual, sunless, dull, German day in the office of the captain.
In time, all our importance melts away, and yet as a part of history we remain an important factor in time. The way you live, the love you have for life, the love you have for others and the understanding of them, the love you have for a woman and your unborn children are of great importance.
Whether you are ever known as an individual, it is the way you are which makes the “To Be” of a better world. Now you are nearing home to the land that I love so deeply. I would want to clain that land in a deeper way than you can in your youth.
Someday you will know what I mean. Someday you will know that the earth in a bog swamp when you are out duck hunting is the cleanest mud in the world.
Don’t ever forget that part of your life which you spent in a foreign land. There were circumstances you did not like. They have helped to keep that mud as clean as it is. Sometimes Don, I hope you are looking at that lost land where you like to lose yourself.
You’ll find the air just a bit sharp. You will like the smell that time of year.
Whether it is summer, fall, winter or spring, just breathe deeper because you are alive.
God is in Nature and you are close to it and to Him. In college it would be called Pantheism. I’d rather call it the awareness of Don knowing Don. You can call it whatever. It doesn’t matter what you call it just so you remember that when it happens and it will.
The sea where you read this is deep. Your feet will soon touch shore. Right now you are pipeline and lost.
Soon the inevitable pattern will establish itself. You will be a civilian with all the responsibilities of one. To drive safely, to love right, to build a home, and to vote are small and important things. To be aware when you’re on a hunting trip
that you are the greatest being God ever made is imprtant too.
That’s about all I have to say, Don.
This is my shipboard letter to you with the exception of one thing.
The more you grow the more you will become aware of this.
The older you grow the greater is your responsibility toward life, society, and the two people who created you, your Mother and Father.
April 22, 1930-February 24, 2017
* * *
My husband, Don, passed away in 2017. In going through his special drawer for saving things important to him, I found this letter. I didn’t know his friend “Meade”. I don’t need to know.
Although we shared 62 years of marriage, I didn’t know Don as a soldier, when he was newly discharged from the service. He would have celebrated his 87th birthday in April of 2017.
His great respect for God, family and nature never ceased.
I’ve often wondered at the intensity of thought of a 16 year old girl, (that was me), considering the awful event of PEARL HARBOR. This was written in 1951. The event had happened only ten years earlier. Although it seems to us in 2018 as only a point in history, it was very real to a teen-ager in those days.
The war had been over for 6 years at that time. It remained fresh in the minds of our people.
The men and women who served in the war, some of whom are still with us today, can never erase the images of horrors they witnessed during their time of service to our country.
December 7th is a date to remember.
If we cannot remember what happened on that date, investigate the history books.
A large plane had flown into the World Trade Center in New York City
and completely disappeared.
A DAY TO REMEMBER
I wanted to feel the comfort of shared grief. “The quilters were a blessing to me.”
Let me explain…
Standing before the television, getting my last look at the news before beginning the day, I couldn’t comprehend the scene before me.
A large plane had flown into the World Trade Center in New York City and completely disappeared. Smoke and flames were billowing out at a point six stories from the top of the building. The remnants of the plane had not appeared on the other side. It didn’t make sense.
I knew I wasn’t watching a video or a re-run. How could this have happened?
I called to my husband who was working outside. “Come in here and look at this.”
As we stood together before the television, another large plane appeared and flew into the second tower, not emerging on the other side, causing an explosion of smoke and fire.
As the day progressed, a tower collapsed and disintegrated into the ground sending unbelievable amounts of soot and smoke racing through the narrow streets.
Hundreds were running away in an effort to escape the terrible scene.
An event, which I have never viewed, although I know it was captured by cameras, shows thousands of people jumping from the fire in the buildings to their deaths on the ground. I cannot bring myself to look at it.
It was reported that 400 police officers and fire fighters were killed while attempting to rescue as many as possible from the blazing buildings. These brave men led many to safety. They are heroes. This is America. Tragedies such as this don’t happen here.
As the day wore on, I couldn’t draw away from the sight of the events before me. I felt fear and a heavy sadness for what was happening in New York. How could anyone living in the United States of America believe this could be possible?
Thousands of people had gone to work that morning, never to return to their loved ones. How do we accept such an event except through fear, confusion and sadness.
Later, as the hours passed, a report was given that a passenger plane was down. Flight 93, had crashed and disintegrated in a field in Pennsylvania. Forty unbelievably brave passengers attempted to take over the plane. All were killed as they tried to retrieve control from the terrorists.
We remember them as heroes.
A report was given about a fourth plane with 184 passengers aboard which had flown into the Pentagon. Many were killed. The scenes before me could not be denied. It was reported Fight 93 had been destined to destroy the White House. Because of the actions of the passengers the plane had crashed into an empty field.
That night our church, which will hold 300 people, held a prayer meeting. Every available place was filled. This was the beginning of a new awareness. There are people who hate us because we exist. They hate us so much, they willingly die in order to kill as many of us in this country as possible.
I felt a strong need to reach out to people far away, wanting to feel the comfort of shared grief. How could that be accomplished? My recently developed hobby of quilting had led me to discover a program on the Internet designed for exchanging quilt materials. Choose a listed name and address, send twenty-four two-inch pieces of material in a variety of colors. They would be sown into a quilt. I should send my material to them and they in turn would send theirs to me. Along with the material, the guidelines suggested also sending a little note about myself, where I lived and briefly about my life.
I received exchanges from every state in the union including one from Israel. Eventually there were enough squares to make a full sized quilt, covering both sides with the material received. Opening each package I felt warmly connected to these women I would never meet. I felt strengthened knowing that their hands had prepared the material, which I now held in my hands. The quilters were a blessing to me.
Each message I received now resides in a folder, for remembering friends unknown.
I was sixty-six years of age. My life and thousands of others, could never be the same. We must not let the evil existing in the world change us as persons or as citizens of the United States of America. The events of September 11, 2001 have been burned into the minds of those of us who witnessed it.
To many of our youth, September 11, 2001, is only a piece of history. It may be likened to the story of the First World War, Viet Nam, or the Korean War. The difference is this happened in the United States of America in the twenty-first century. It didn’t happen under the leadership of George Washington or Abraham Lincoln. It didn’t happen when Theodore Roosevelt or Harry Truman held the office of president. It happened under the administration of the forty-third president of the United States of America, George W. Bush.
To President Bush, in office for less than one year, fell the responsibility of dealing with a people who hate us. These are people who consider our very existence to be an affront to their god. It fell to our president to comfort many who were frightened and grief stricken.
This isn’t the world in which I grew to adulthood. Could I have imagined a foreign nation taking the lives of 3000 people on a fair September morning in New York city? Would I have believed I would be a witness while standing before a television in my home as it was happening?
The answer is no.
We must NEVER FORGET September 11, 2001.
The memories remain vivid on September 11, 2018. Sadness comes quickly. I WILL NOT FORGET.