Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Memorial Day

The clock has just struck midnight and, as I will myself to go to sleep, I think about the veterans in my own life and those I knew of. My grandmother had a pack of brothers who served in World War II. One of my Aunt Ouida's 17 year old brother who died at one of the attacks near Pearl Harbor. My husband's dad served as well. I think of the names and young faces who are featured on the local news for having been killed while serving bravely. So many people neither you and I have ever even met, but they were important. They are missed by their communities, friends and

I also think of one of the bravest soldiers I know that passed away this weekend.

My Uncle Jewel was truly a gem. His life could have easily been The Notebook or one of those other war love stories that makes you bawl and laugh at the same time. He was a soldier in World War II.

Uncle Jewel was a lot of things to a lot of people...a brother, son, uncle, husband, stepdad, golf buddy, fellow soldier, and friend. He was my grandmother's brother and the last of her 7 brothers to get married, in his 50s I think. He was handsome, a jokester and people flocked to his loving jokes and songs as much as they were attracted to his wife Ouida's Southern charm and amazing cooking.

Jewel taught my mom and her cousins all sorts of things, like how to swing a golf club, how to bowl, how to sing silly songs like Bill Grogan's Goat an Mares Eat Oats. Oh, those songs. Then he taught those same lessons to my generation of cousins. He made each of us feel so special. I have so many memories of times on the lake in Hot Springs, Arkansas, learning life lessons from my great uncle's stories while simultaneously swatting away mosquitos.

Jewel was a real golf lover and pretty darn good, from what others told me. He was kind of a legend when he was still alive, and I mean that people just loved and respected him so much. He wasn't always perfect, but I can't think of a thing he ever did wrong either. Last July, my mom and I flew to Mississippi for the day, to go see Jewel and Ouida. The effects of Alzheimer's were certainly setting in; you could see it on his face. But his stories of old were still clear to him. My Uncle Max (his brother) sent us with a copy of one of Jewel's military award descriptions. I read it aloud to him, and Jewel recalled that day very clearly. The day he saved a group of men, saving their lives from certain enemy fire and death. That day earned him a Silver Star, an incredible honor. Jewel just smiled and said, "Yep, that was a tiring day." No kidding.

As you go about your week, I hope you're able to think about people like Jewel who helped shape you into who you are. Sometimes it's necessary to look back and swim in gratefulness for the gems that taught us what we know and those who positively encouraged us. I am thankful to be a niece to some incredible men and women, some who have passed and some who are alive and well. Either way, I thank God for the heroes and heroines (military and civilians) who allowed me such great freedoms. I also thank them for teaching me life lessons that I depend on daily.

May God comfort Jewel's family and friends, and may we see the beauty in celebrating lives who have passed. Goodnight and Happy Memorial Day.

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