Thursday, May 31, 2012

Heroes--the Real Memorial Day

Today is the real Memorial Day. It’s also my dad’s birthday—which is appropriate, because my dad is, in my eyes, a war hero. He was on the ship Utah in Pearl Harbor during the Japanese attack of 1941. But with or without the war, my dad is still a hero.

My mom was also a veteran. She served in the WAC, the Women’s Army Corps. General Douglas MacArthur called the WACs "my best soldiers", adding that they worked harder, complained less, and were better disciplined than men. Many generals wanted more of them and proposed to draft women but it was realized that this "would provoke considerable public outcry and Congressional opposition" and the War Department declined to take such a drastic step. Those 150,000 women that did serve released the equivalent of 7 divisions of men for combat. Gen. Dwight D. Eisenhower said that "their contributions in efficiency, skill, spirit, and determination are immeasurable" (From Wikipedia)

I’m not my mom. Despite the similarities—the number of children we raised—our callings in church service—I am still not my mom, just like my brothers can never be my dad. The world has changed.

My mom served for a number of years as a stake relief society president. I’m also in a stake relief society presidency. Her stake extended from Everett, Washington to the Canadian border and encompassed the San Juan Island. I know this, because as the youngest child, my preschool years were full of relief society visits. I remember visits to tiny Lummi Island and the city of Bellingham. In those days before e-mail, cell phones and copy machines—life was more of a chore. Today, I can drive from one end of my stake to the other in about fifteen minutes. I can send out an e-mail to hundreds of people at a time. The ways I can serve in my calling would seem nothing short of a miracle to my mom.

My mom’s service didn’t begin or end with her church calling. My mom bottled fruit, canned vegetables and sewed her own clothes. My parent’s garden was bigger than my California back yard. My mom saved money by sewing our clothes--sewing today is more costly than a trip to Ross. Even if I wanted to, even if it made sense—I can’t pattern my life after the life my parents lived. I suspect it will be the same for my children. They’ll walk into a life that I can’t imagine. Which reminds me of one of my favorite poems.

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The Prophet Khalil Gibran

My mother died nearly thirty-five years ago. She was released from her stake calling shortly after she fainted during a meeting. She’d been suffering from cancer for years in silence. Yesterday I called my dad for his birthday and spoke with my memory impaired stepmother. She told me that my dad was in the hospital. She could tell me little else, other than he wouldn’t be home any time soon.

My dad is still here, but sometimes I miss him, I miss my mom, and I miss the way of life that seemed so much simpler, and yet harder, than today.

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