Wednesday, May 29, 2013

A "Rough" Life - A Tribute to My Grandma, An Uncle, and My Dad, Part II

My Dad was in Vietnam at the same time as his younger brother. They were 11 months apart in age, but they weren't stationed together.

From the evictions, beatings, and sheer terror of my Dad's childhood, I always assumed when he left to join the military that he never looked back - Relieved to be away from the heavy hands and empty bottles. But, no.

He wrote every week - sending updates, offering encouragement, and money when his Dad was out of work or money was tight.

I've only ever seen my father honor his father and mother, but I didn't think it was possible for that to have always been so. But, it was. By the grace of God. There is no other explanation.

My Dad was responsible for monitoring communications during the war. He knew things were getting bad where his brother was, when someone came in and tore the paper off the teletype and tried to leave with it. My Dad demanded to see it, and confirmed his suspicion. His brother was killed when his armored personnel carrier drove over a landmine. My Dad escorted his body home.

Stateside, three letters were written requesting an early release from his military duty, including one from his parents. He was desperately needed at home. His brother in reform school needed him, his brother in a wheelchair needed him, his baby brother needed him, and his parents needed him more than all the others put together. So, he did what he does. He showed up.

Like yesterday. My Grandma had a beautiful Rosary, Mass, and graveside service. Her casket was blue; just like she would have chosen. Today, he's wrapping up all of her personal business. Just like he did for his three brothers and his Dad. "Well done, good and faithful servant."

I never knew my Uncle Mike was a real, funny, lovable man. Now, I know. I knew my Dad was a great man. Now, I know he is an even greater man than I knew was possible. And, now I better understand why my Grandma just wanted to shut me up.

The more I know, the more I don't know, but the more I feel. And I know that is good.

I'm tempted to dwell on these final, unread letters from the Vietnam war. I'm tempted to dwell on the three telegrams indicating a missing son, then a dead son, and finally, the dead son being escorted home by his brother. My humanity wants to stay here - in solidarity with my Grandma and the pain she once knew.

But, my grandmother doesn't need this from me, and God let me know that this morning - the day after her funeral and the day I've understood her better than any other day.

"Man is so made that he can carry the weight of twenty-four hours - no more. Directly he weighs down with the years behind, and the days ahead, his back breaks. I have promised to help you with the burden of today only, the past I have taken from you and if you, foolish hearts, choose to gather again that burden and bear it, then, indeed you mock Me to expect Me to share it...

A man on a march on earth carries only what he needs for that march. Would you pity him if you saw him bearing too the overwhelming weight of the worn-out shoes and uniforms of past marches and years? And yet, in the mental and spiritual life, man does these things. Small wonder My poor world is heartsick and weary. Not so must YOU act."
-God Calling

I love you, Grandma. I will continue to pray for you until I see you again. Please pray for me and all who are dear to me, especially your son, my Dad.

Uncle Mike, I can't wait to meet you in person. Thank you for your service and your letters.

Rest in peace

Dear God, Thank you for my Grandmother and her choice to have my Dad. She easily could have aborted. Thank you for the special bond we had and the privilege of honoring her with song and prayers the final day of her life. Thank you for the opportunity to assist another into Heaven.

Thank you for my Uncle Mike. For his service, for his humor, for his letters, and for his love.

Lord, Thank you for my Dad. I've known no one who has loved so well in the face of being loved so poorly. Thank you for giving him the grace of forgiveness and a deep conviction about following your Commandments, and making no exceptions.

Please bless him on earth and for eternity - for his love and fidelity to You and those You entrusted to Him. You are an awesome God. Please, through your mercy, grant eternal rest to the faithful departed. Amen.

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