My father served in the Army in Korea. He was there when Kennedy was shot. He used to tell us “War Stories” after dinner around our table. The stories he told were about the crazy, funny antics of military life. They were never the serious, sad, losing people stories. We were little girls.
Now we are all mothers and some of us are grandmothers. We have watched as our sons and nephews have joined one service or another, and we have gone white-haired overnight as our young men have gone off into battle.
We have been fortunate. We have not lost anyone. We have been there to welcome them home and we now watch them raise their own children. My nephew, who served two tours in Iraq, would go weeks and weeks without a shower in 130 degree heat working inside a tank. I cannot imagine how dreadful that must have been. He now works as an under-water welder. He said he never wanted to see a desert again. His son was born on 11-11-11 and is turning one on Monday. I cherish the thought of that Marine and his little wife and baby with a big birthday cake.
This weekend, over Veteran’s Day, and throughout this week, The Travelling Wall is in Sonoma, CA. My father, now 72, stood guard overnight at this wall. He has been instrumental in recruiting grief counselors to be on hand throughout the time that the Wall is in town. Grief Counselors wear special name tags. People can come talk to them if they choose, or grieve on their own in their own way. Everyone does this differently.
Sometimes, putting a hand on someone’s shoulder is enough to send them over the edge into tears when all they really want to do is hold it together in public, and fall apart when they are alone.
My father knows about sitting beside someone in silence to grieve with them. He knows that words can often be well-intended yet cruel. Sometimes the only thing comforting to do is do nothing, and just be be with someone, and let the weight of sorrow rest on you as well. Something about sharing it in total silence makes its mark on the one who has lost.
Why do the words, “Thank You” seem so hollow?
photo from here