Years ago, I asked my Grandmother about my Grandfather who had died in World War II. In answer she brought me a box full of letters and pictures. We looked at the pictures together and then I started opening the letters. Since my Grandmother was in her 60’s (or so) at the time, I imagined my Grandfather the same way, and yet the letters brought to my mind, a young man, a young father. His letters asked about the kids, and shared newsie-type things from his experiences. One of them said that he was in France, but was not allowed to say more than that.
I was totally lost in this world. My grandmother at home, a young mother of 4 with one on the way, and my grandfather in Europe for the very first time, writing “they play for keeps over here.” Then I noticed a letter that was typed and thought that was odd, as the others were hand-written.
I opened the letter and read:
Dear Mrs. West,
We’re sorry to inform you that your husband was killed in battle.
I couldn’t see the words after that because of the tears. All I could think of was how my Grandmother must have felt when she received it. My next thought was of all the other women that received similar letters.
A few years even early than this, my high school history teacher, Gary Francis taught my class about the Vietnam War. He had been there and his stories of the war and PTSD are seared into my heart.
On Memorial Day I think of my Grandfather and WWII. I also think of Gary Francis and Vietnam. I think of men and families, and too many tears for one lifetime.
According to Wikipedia, “Memorial Day is not to be confused with Veteran’s Day. Memorial Day is a day of remembering the men and women who died while serving, while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all U.S. military veterans, living or dead.”
Personally, I don’t think it matters. I have had some health issues in the past that gave me serious cause to think about death (I”m doing much better now, no worries.) But I can tell you there were two main things on my mind. My concern for my husband and children, and the desire to be remembered.
So when I ask myself what I can do for my Grandfather and for other Veterans who have died, I think they would say, remember our families and remember us. I think they would also want us to thank the Veterans that are still with us.
Remembering those who are gone from us is an act of kindness. For some wonderful mitzvah ideas for Memorial Day check out this blog:Hands On Blog: 16 Ways to Honor Our Military
I remember you Grandpa.