Friday, October 28, 2016

A Single Tree

We left the Abraham Lincoln Memorial Cemetery in the same order that we’d entered: Hurst, Paul and then Vincent’s cars trailing behind. We would follow the Hurst back to the expressway and then branch off on our own.

Just after entering I-80 East bound, I glanced to my right and noticed a brilliantly red maple tree standing in the midst of several other trees, some green, others with dead or dying foliage. - It seemed to scream to me of life and zest; of vigor and determination to thrive in the midst its surroundings.

As I sat there in the back seat, clutching the folded American flag, to my breast, the last semblance of my brother’s leaving, I felt so all alone. There had always been an older brother or sister to encourage, counsel, reprove or comfort me – someone whom I’d always looked up to; but now there was no one. No one left but me. Just then I felt as if that red maple was speaking to me; as if it were holding out to me the hope it bore – being so vibrant and brilliant among forestry that had either met or was near its demise – it seemed to scream, “There is still much life in you; live it to the full, and don’t be discouraged. It doesn’t matter that you’re the only sibling left, you’re still vibrant, with much life, hope and happiness to share with others, just like me – a beacon of hope.”

“Am I going overboard here? Am I being too self-centered?” I mused. “It’s not the end of the world. I still have an active, affectionate husband, children who love me, nieces and nephews who enjoy my company and a host of friends”. Yes, friends who actually proved their loyalty, by flocking to the home where I was staying to get some one-on-one visitation in while I was there. I was so blessed! I was determined to take away with me, the lesson of the single tree.

Therefore, the life lesson I took away from seeing that lone red maple tree in the forestry, along the tollway was this: Virginia, shine where you are; bring joy to everyone who casts their eyes upon you. Prove that you can continue to flourish, even though each of your siblings has passed on to their rest. God has left you here for a reason. Therefore, seek out that reason and fulfill it – pure and simple.

The rest of my day went quite well. The five of us who had gone to the internment, stopped and broke bread together at the Cracker Barrel; Paul told jokes and reminisced about his dad; I laughed so hard I nearly choked and the rest of the group laughed at me, laughing at Paul. It was good. I was surrounded by live loved ones, who loved and cared for me. What more could I ask for or want?


Wednesday, October 26, 2016

Just 15 Minutes

Yesterday, I buried one of my greatest heroes, friends and brothers. The activity surrounding it was all quiet impressive.

Three of my nephews, my husband and I gathered at the funeral home for one last viewing of the deceased. Then the five of us climbed into two different cars and followed the Hurst to Abraham Lincoln’s National Cemetery, in Elwood, IL. We were met by military personnel, a transport car and led to the ceremonial area.

As we moved to the site, my eyes fell upon seven elderly soldiers, dressed in dark blue uniforms, white shirts, red ties, red berets, red honor cords attached to their left shoulders, standing at attention holding firearms and awaiting their commands; two additional retirees, dressed in the same uniforms, stood on opposite sides of the presentation area; one giving the commands to the seven, who stood at attention; the other retiree, silent.

Two more soldiers stood, at equal attention, separately from them; their dress - dark blue uniforms, dark ties, white shirts and dark hats, with a gold cord circling the front of the cap, just above the bib.  They, too flanked the coffin, on either side, when a female spokesperson, dressed in civilian clothing, shivering in the chilling wind, came forth to give a canned welcome/condolence speech and explained the procedure. She encouraged us to cover our ears, as the 21 gun salute took place (which amounted to the seven soldiers, firing their weapons, simultaneously, three times each upon command). I stood silent, my eyes and camera riveted on the shooters, gritting my teeth and fighting back the tears screaming for release with each shot. “I’ll not allow myself to become emotional”, I reasoned. “If I do, I’ll ruin the video; the meaning of this celebration will be lost on my lack of composure. Pull yourself together!” I cautioned myself.  So I did.

Once the firing ceased and the command was given to halt, a lone bugler, stationed about a block away, but still visible, blew “Taps”. The four soldiers, without weapons, stood in a stationary salute, the entire time “Taps” was sounding; the gunners, in parade rest. Once the “Taps” were completed, the silent retiree approached Paul, the eldest son of my brother and gave him three fired cartridge shells in a plastic bag, representing the ones fired on behalf of his dad. His wife is deceased.

As soon as he had resumed his position, the two distinctively, differently dressed soldiers began the flag folding aspect of the ceremony. Methodically and extremely meticulously, they folded the flag into a triangle, tucked its corners and then one of them presented the folded flag to my nephew, immediately after having received a departing salute from his capable assistant. Kneeling, in a statuesque position before my nephew, he expressed condolences for the family of the fallen soldier; arose without issue, saluted and walked militarily away.

The funeral director asked if there were any closing remarks from anyone – silence – seemed to breathe a sigh of relief when no one came forth, because the wind was rising and he appeared chilled; he then directed my nephews and husband to place the casket in the transport car. Afterwards, we each went to the saluting area and retrieved the empty shells as memorials of our own. Everything, had taken place in roughly 15 minutes.

What a life lesson! Despite the pomp and circumstances associated with the service; it just reminded me that all of the years spent in service to mankind, all of the sacrifices made on one’s part for family, friends and country, can be celebrated in 15 minutes of man’s measured time and then tucked away for the final reckoning.  It certainly brings everything into perspective, as to what is important. Therefore, let’s make a pact to put foolishness, in our lives aside, and only concentrate on the important matters like those things that are mentioned in Philippians 4:8, "Finally brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.”

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Monday, October 24, 2016

Out of Time

Time! What is time? No one can possess it. No one can harness it. No one can make it, erase it, or sell it. No one can claim it as one’s own. It has always existed and will never cease. Yet, we state that it is something we can charge for; fight for; demand of others, especially in a relationship and/or something we think that we can own. But time, like air, has always been around for as long as mankind can remember, and it already has an owner: the creator God, who ordained it. Therefore, it cannot be possessed; it can only be borrowed, used or abused.  We have devised ways of measuring it, but we cannot control it. Therefore, how can run out of it? It’s a euphemism we use, when we have abused the appointed measurement of what we call time.  

The day I began all of the activity surrounding the changing of my furnace filter, I was slated to write my weekly blogs and schedule them for posting. After I finished changing the filter, washing the 155 tiny vents that cover it, vacuuming the floor where too much dust and dirt had fallen, swept the laundry room and straightened some of the shelves, I found myself “out of time”. I had abused the apportioned “alone time”, granted by my husband’s absence, that I might work uninhabited and with abandonment. Now, it was time to turn “my time” and attention to things having to do with him.

I thought of a dear sister, who was desirous of writing her life story. She certainly had lived an adventurous life and there was much to share, but she was letting her attention be diverted by “Samaritan” activity and time was slipping, ever so slowly, away from her. She recently shared with me that household circumstances were causing her to spend more time at home. I chuckled to myself, because I saw her dilemma as one that was offering her opportunity to get her book written; however, that epiphany is hers to discover, not mine to reveal.  

My life lesson for today is this, although time is freely allocated to all, I personally need to apply more diligent application to that measurement of time that has been apportioned to me, by the Creator. Although I can never own it, harness it, dispense it, trade it or buy it; one thing is for sure; I can never ever stop it, and neither can you. Therefore, my plan going forward is to do quickly that which must be done, and close my eyes to all else. Are you in?