On Tuesday, our nation will remember veterans for Veteran's Day. But today, I remember the most special veteran of all - the one I knew the best. Three years ago, my dad stepped into the presence of Jesus. He was a WWII vet, a man who served his country well. When I look back at pictures of my dad in his Army Air Corp uniform, I'm always a little shocked to see how young he was then. Barely into his twenties when they bombed Pearl Harbor. Newly married, with only a few opportunities to see his wife before he deployed overseas. I know he traveled by ship, and perhaps also by submarine. During our homeschooling years, we slept on the U.S.S. Silversides submarine as part of a field trip. I cannot imagine how claustrophobic one could get on such a vessel under water. Those bunks are about as narrow as they come and they were stacked three high in a narrow space. (If memory serves me correctly.) The ship or sub took Dad to the Philippines, New Hebrides, and probably other places I will never know.
My dad decoded messages from the enemy for the Allies. He never talked about what he saw during those days - World War II vets weren't known for sharing their stories all that much at the time. They came home when the war was over and raised their families. My dad didn't get to meet his son until my brother was two, and then he and my mom settled down to a job and home, had two girls many years apart, and loved us well.
I was thinking about how much I still miss him today, three years after I said goodbye. He lived a full life, one he was ready to leave because he knew where he was going once he took the journey to his real home in heaven with Jesus. I told him we'd be joining him someday. And we will, for we share the same faith and hope.
A lot of people I care about have lost loved ones this year. And though I've lost my dad, I can't say I understand every loss because every person's grief is their own. No one grieves the same way. Last night we watched an episode of Blue Bloods that was about losing a mom, and there I sat crying because today was the anniversary of losing my dad. Grief is only lessened when it's accompanied by hope. At least that's how I see it. I have great hope of seeing my dad again someday. In a new body, well and able to walk again and to hear him sing. Funny, I can still hear his voice in my memory.
But for now, in the in between time, I remember the man who helped us put up the swimming pool when the kids were small, or who baked bread with my sister, or who golfed with his buddies while I slept in every Saturday morning. I remember a man who held my hand over lunch while he prayed for me on my birthday, and asked me to sing "Oh Holy Night" when he was dying. I remember how proud I felt when he served communion as an elder in our church, and how scared I felt when he nearly lost a finger in a snowblower.
There are so many pictures that spark so many good memories. And Thanksgiving - how he loved pumpkin pie. He always kidded about keeping half of it all to himself. But I think pie was one of his four basic food groups no matter what flavor.
Thank you for letting me take this trek down memory lane. Veteran's Day is a good day to remember all who have sacrificed for our freedom. But I will always treasure the day before because that's the day that belonged to my dad. And because on the actual day that we honor our vets, I celebrate the birth of a son. A son my dad was bursting with pride to hold, and so pleased to meet! And I have pictures to prove it. :)
Miss you, Daddy. You made me proud.