A Remembrance

The name may sound similar, as in the outlaw from back in the day, but Jesse Jamison was actually a blacksmith in mid-1800’s Indiana.

I think I know how Elon, his mother, felt when he enlisted in the 66th Indiana Volunteers. When your child chooses the military way, you live with a mixture of pride and fear.  You mostly keep a smile on your face but there’s usually a knot in your stomach.  You pray a lot.

For Elon it was likely more difficult.  Jesse was the oldest of nine brothers.

And nine brothers enlisted in Abraham Lincoln’s Union Army.  I can’t wrap my mind around that.

All nine from Indiana – Thomas joined Jesse in the 66th.  Benjamin in the 79th, and James, a lieutenant in the 27th.  David, Jacob, George and Robert joined the 49th.  And Lewis went with the 16th Indiana Infantry.  Two brothers were carpenters, the rest farmers.  They all left families and sweethearts behind.

Patriotic holidays and stories of military relatives and friends were cherished in my family.  My normally reserved father spared no expense on 4th of July fireworks and sparklers when I was a kid.  Our house was the place to be.

And fortunately, I married a man who feels the same way about his adopted country, the USA, and his birth country of Canada.  Between us we passed along our fathers and grandfathers stories.  I am happy that our sons share our love of country.  They respect and know the cost of freedom.

When I take the time to reflect, I find it humbling that young men and women, from Revolutionary War times to present day, put their lives on the line for causes bigger than themselves.  Bigger than they knew.

They gave their lives for people they would never know… for people who would live a life they never dreamed of.

G. K. Chesterton wrote, “Courage is almost a contradiction in terms.  It means a strong desire to live taking the form of readiness to die.”

I hope I could be that brave.

Not all of us are called to serve in the military.  But I think we’re all called to serve.  Perhaps the best way to honor our fallen, is simply to practice gratitude.  Live a good life.  Courage, honor and old-fashioned grit can only be shared by example.

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Of the nine brothers who went to war, seven returned home.

Sgt. Lewis Jamison died at the Seige of Vicksburg.

Cpl. Jesse Jamison died and is buried at the National Cemetery in Corinth, Mississippi.

Jesse didn’t die suddenly in battle.  He died slowly, suffering from peritonitis.  The ten other men listed on the death register for that day died of diarrhea, typhoid fever and inflammation of the brain.

That deserves to be remembered.  They and their families gained no personal benefit for that suffering.

But we did.

Jesse was 36 when he died.  He left behind, Mary, his wife and three children – Lewis- 7, Cynthia- 5 and Laura- 2.

Lewis grew up and married Harriet.  They had Albert.

Albert grew up and married Vera.  They had Robert.

Generation after generation leaves its mark and makes its sacrifice.

Thank you, Jesse, for yours.

Memorial Day.

Full Heart Day.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

the full heart life

Two team members are dead.

The third rests against a tree, mortally wounded.  His last words are to tell his wife how much he loves her,lone-survivor-movie-review

“and that I died with my brothers…with a full heart”

From the movie Lone Survivor.

The scene and those words are stuck in my head.

What does it mean to die with a full heart?

And how do you get a full heart?

Yes, movies are designed to pull your heart strings.  But it was based on a true story.  And that scene got me thinking and remembering my grandfather.

I was with him when he died.  I’d known him my whole life.  He didn’t do life perfectly, but he gave every bit of himself to every day that he lived.  He lived wholeheartedly.

And maybe that’s the key – to die with a full heart, you must live with a whole heart.

I can’t speak with authority about the soldier in the movie, but we know he had family he loved.  He was committed and well trained for the mission.  He fought to survive, to help his brothers survive.  I’m sure he would rather have lived.  But in the end, perhaps knowing he had given everything he had was enough to let go in peace, with a full heart.

I love the way John Ortberg talks about wholeheartedness in his book, All The Places To Go.  In it he says,

“I have never heard a football coach ask his team to go out on the field and give it 90 percent.  You can’t imagine a great leader standing before the team and saying, “Now go out and give it…most of what you’ve got.”

No.  It needs to be all you’ve got.

I’m not always good at that.  But I’m learning.

The professional soldier may be the ultimate example – – giving full on, everything you have, knowing you may die.  Doing it anyway.

Most of us are not soldiers.  But there are still a million little ways to fill up the heart.

I think it boils down to the commitment to love one another.  To be courageous, even if you’re fearful.

It’s going after that college degree, ignoring the set-backs and critics, and not stopping until diploma is in hand.

It’s offering the hug, the apology, the “Hi, I’ve missed you”, knowing it may be rejected.  Doing it anyway.  And keeping a joyful heart even if…

It’s raising your children, taking care of your parents, and not knowing how it will end.  It’s getting in the truck headed north and trusting God with the outcome.  It’s learning you can be afraid and brave at the same time.

It’s knowing you’re worthy and loveable, even when you’ve messed up.  Especially when you’ve messed up… and you didn’t let it defeat you.

It felt like a gift to be with my grandfather in his last moments of life.  I was devastated to loose him and oddly filled with hope at the same time.  It was like all the love and beauty inside that one man broke open.  It spilled across the room and onto every person in it.

His heart was full and he couldn’t help but share it.

As a face is reflected in water, so the heart reflects the man.  Proverbs 27:19

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

seeing thru the smoke

My husband and I like fresh air.

The good news is we both love the house filled with fresh air.

The bad news is we have varying criteria, methods and internal thermostats.

I may be feeling perfectly comfortable when he will suddenly fling wide the front and back doors.  While this creates a lovely wind tunnel effect on the main floor, it also welcomes bugs and critters to join us.

I am not a fan of bugs.  Or critters with wings.

When you’ve had a BAT in the house more than once, you become sensitive to these things.

A couple mornings ago I used my favorite method of air freshening.  This meant opening every window that has a proper screen installed, from first floor to second to attic.

It was lovely.

I took deep breaths.  It felt like the house did too.  I drank my coffee, read, got dressed, had breakfast, all the while devouring that lovely fresh air.

Until… that early bird neighbor set his burn pile ablaze.  And I begin the race to slam windows shut.

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But I’m never fast enough.

My nose and eyes were assaulted.  The house had lost its fresh.  And the atmosphere felt full and heavy.  For a while, my stuffy head had trouble focusing on the task at hand.

Some days feel that way even without a burn pile fire.

It’s been a little over a month since we returned from our North Carolina trip.  My refreshed spirit seemed to shrivel away quickly.  My grand list-making, project-doing plans have faltered.

Oh, I’ve been busy.  Just not doing the things I’d hoped to do.

My big, grand plans pile up in a heap and spontaneously combust with great regularity.

I need to remind myself there is only so much you can do with the circumstances you have.  I need to remember to work toward the goal in normal size steps.  To take bite size pieces, not the whole enchilada.  And I’m always up for the whole enchilada.

I don’t know what the sky looks like where you live, but more often than not we are treated to a beautiful view every evening.  I can’t stop taking pictures of the sky.

The same day as the burn pile event, we had this gorgeous view.  And then it’s God who reminds me to slow it down, enjoy the day (smoke or not), take it one small step at a time.

In short, just chill, lady.

So regarding that burn pile fire, it actually wasn’t the neighbor.  It was my very own husband who smoked us out.

But I didn’t say anything to him.  He’s been working hard to clear debri.

And because, Heaven knows, I’ve started my own share of fires.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

motherly imperfections

 

… taking an extra-large “mother’s cut” of Easter candy before filling your baskets

… needing a “sweat rag” to hold while teaching you to drive

… making up excuses not to take you places because I didn’t feel like it

… making up excuses because I was afraid

… serving you fish sticks, French fries and corn… all in one meal

serving you fish sticks

… being too involved when I shouldn’t / not involved enough when I should

… crying while you were trying to hold it together

… making you wear the red jeans

… killing every flowering plant you ever gave me

These things are true.  But you, sons, already know.  And graciously so.

I wish I’d been braver.  More patient.  Wiser.

I wish fear hadn’t been my default decider.

I wish I’d never cooked a fish stick.

And I wish I could do some things over.

But maybe that wouldn’t be good.  Because things would change.

And you wouldn’t be the YOU you are.

And that would be a perfectly unacceptable imperfection.

 

 

 

 

 

staying the course…

Saying “no” to a slice of thickly frosted, gooey chocolate cake can make you feel dazed and confused…

Staying open to love, when there’s a choice to judge, feels risky…

Completing the project, the one they want, the one you want to quit, taps every reserve you have…

But you will feel better in the morning.

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the thin line between good and hard…

If you post on Facebook regularly, you are familiar with your “memories” from a year or two or five popping into your daily newsfeed.

This week, this photo memory caught my attention.

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It was exactly one year ago that one of my new daughters-in-law very bravely, on her own, bought a cute little house.  She searched, weighed pros and con, did the math and just plain did a great job on her first home purchase.  Our son was out of town, so I snapped this picture and posted it on Facebook.  The message was that Andrew had much to look forward to.

I’ve been reflecting on the good stuff from April 2015 to April 2016.

  1. This particular son came home to a big wedding and a new home.  He’s only a few weeks away from his university graduation.
  2. We had a mini family reunion last June… so rare to get our sons together.
  3.  Our son, David, got married right after Christmas prompting yet another family reunion.
  4.  Recently, Doug and I went on our first vacation in 4 years.  It was extra special to have our oldest son and his wife with us.
  5. On said vacation, we witnessed David retire from a 21 year military career… and enjoyed quality time with our newest daughter-in-law.
  6. And sprinkled throughout the year were holidays and occasional Sundays with grandchildren.

Sweet memories.

Fortunately, Facebook doesn’t throw our screw ups and failures into the daily newsfeed.  But you never know… I suppose they could develop an App for that!

Those happy memories I listed, came easily to mind.  I’m glad, because I’ve worked hard to stay focused on the good and let go what pulls me down.

The reality is that lingering close by, on the flip side of good, are the hard parts of life none are exempt from:  health issues, fractured relationships, losses, having to wait.  The photo I snapped and posted to Facebook a year ago was for a military son in Iraq.  David followed for a short deployment later in the year.  And after Andrew’s happy wedding day, the very day after, his youngest brother was seriously injured in a motorcycle crash.

I had no idea this past year, April to April, would be filled with so much good and so much hard.  I’m glad I didn’t know.  And kind of think that’s how God must plan it.

I’m learning.  To rejoice in the good stuff.  To rejoice.  Period.

To hold lightly the hard.  Fix and learn what I can.  Then let it go.

Over and over and over again.

This week we had several days of summer weather.  At 8 o’clock one evening, there were still soft breezes.

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The next evening we had a very different sky.

And before I had the dishes done, it was raining.

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…on being “Support Staff”

Years ago when I lived somewhere else and was gainfully employed at our local university, I was at a “Support Staff” meeting where employee labels were being discussed.

There were “Faculty”, who were pretty much the stars of the show.  (oh yes, just ask them!)

There were “Administrators” with power to hire, fire and make big decisions.  They went to lots of meetings.

And there were “Support Staff”… you know, the ones who cook, clean, maintain, repair, pay bills, punch data (sometimes literally) into computers and prepare reports to be taken to the meetings.

Some thought the support staff label offensive.  Some thought the word “staff” sounded like an infection.  I personally didn’t care what they called me as long as there was a paycheck at the end of the month with my name on it.  (actually, most everyone who worked there didn’t care about labels either… a great crew no matter the label.) (and I had to say that in case anyone I know back then is reading this!)

What I believe is we are all support staff… if you’ve ever loved someone, or been given the grace to serve a difficult person.  And I don’t think there’s anything remotely offensive in the label.

In a marriage, when one has temporarily lost her mind and he holds steady until she comes to her senses… that’s being a classic support staff person.  And of course, it flips the other way.  Or it should.

When you raise a child, they run into mess after mess.  You clean things up and teach them better.  Then before you know it they run out the front door and into a life of their own.  You hope you taught them enough.  But when things are difficult (and they will be) you’re still there to encourage.  Support.

If you care for an aging parent, you take them where they need to go, make sure they have their pills, listen to their stories and watch in frustration as their abilities evaporate and memories fade.  But that doesn’t always feel like support.  It feels more like helpless.

Mom has wanted to go out for dinner for quite a while now.  So this week I took them to a tiny diner in our tiny town.  We got there about 4:30 p.m. so there wouldn’t be a crowd.  (It’s not likely you’ll find a crowd in a town of 630, but you never know.)

Dad has forgotten so much that he couldn’t think how to bend his body to fit into my car.  At the restaurant you could see his discomfort at being in a space he wasn’t familiar with, handling a plate and fork he had never used before.  He struggled with his fork and knife like a toddler and eventually stopped eating in frustration.  I spent more time waiting outside the men’s room for him than I did in our booth.  We all left exhausted.

I stopped at the little market and bought him ice cream bars.

And later I wrote in my journal – –  how do I keep step on this slow walk to death and still fully live?  I felt selfish when I wrote it.  And forgiven at the same time. 

I got the distinct impression it wasn’t my walk to take.  But more on that in a minute.

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Two weeks ago Doug and I were on the other side of the USA at our son’s army retirement.  We were there to honor his 21 years of service, yet he was the one bearing gifts.

David gave me a wooden box, inscribed with his words.  Inside, a rose.  A steel rose.  Beautiful… and quite possibly lethal should I ever need to defend myself!  Seriously though, I love it.

A rose of steel.

Support. Staff.

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Through all of David’s deployments… and his younger brother’s, I lived fully.  I went to work, I went to church, I hosted holiday dinners, I took my grandson to the park.

When talk of labels made me crazy and I wanted to tell them that people are lobbing bombs and bullets at my boys and I didn’t care about their stupid labels, I kept quiet.  I did my job.  Then I went home to bake cookies.  Because nothing says love from home like a box of stale cookies that have crumbled to bits by the time they make it to the desert.  No.  Nothing at all.

And the truth is no one but Jesus could walk beside my sons when they were in harms way, anyway.

And no one but He can walk with my father now.

The God who spoke my father’s life into being, the God who knew I needed a dad just like him, will be the one to open Heaven’s door when the time is right.  And I don’t need to worry one bit about it.

It’s my job to make the coffee, mind the meds, run the errands.  Be support staff with a smile.  And to live fully, in this moment, the life I’ve been given.

Last night as I finished dinner prep, Dad mentioned his cousin had stopped by.

“Really, Dad?  Your cousin was here?”

“Yes.  We had a good lunch.”

Dad’s cousin – the one who served in Europe during WWII – the one who saw Dad’s name on a casualty list and frantically searched until he found him at a troop hospital in France – the one who died about ten years ago.

“Well then, you must have had a great day, Dad.”

“Yes.  I did.” he smiled.

Then we sat down to dinner.  At the familiar table.  With his familiar plate and fork.

He ate every bite.