Keeper of Stories


067As a therapist who specializes in deployment, I find myself in the position of Keeper of Stories.  Week after week, soldier after soldier trusts me to offer them a shoulder, an ear, a safe place to just “be”. It is a sacred job, to just hold the space for them. After so many years as a therapist, it is impossible to be shocked with the content of people’s personal stories anymore. The responsibility of keeper of stories that took place in the theater of war is a big one.  From time to time I have to take a step back and seek my own sacred space in order to shed the stories and refresh my soul so that I can process the new ones awaiting me at my next session. I am grateful for my family and my yoga teachers who facilitate that process for me just by allowing me to keep to myself. My son, a SSgt. on a permanent rotation in the middle east once told me that “some stories can never be told mom“. So the silences between the soldiers and I become just as sacred as the stories themselves.

SHAKEN AWAKE


This morning as day six unfolded of hearing nothing from my son, I had a moment.  A few moments actually, that didn’t serve me.  Bad news coming across the newswires actually prompted me to look out of the window of my 3rd story walk up to see if there was a government car waiting outside.  Projecting myself into that scenario didn’t serve me.  What happened next was a phone call from my girlfriend, a mindfulness guru and then an e-mail, lovingly shared with me by another girlfriend to shake me awake and into the present moment.  The present moment, this is where I have the ability to regain some sense of control over my circumstances as a military mom.

She has given me permission to share this e-mail that her sweet, sweet mother sends each year to her children and grandchildren.

Sixty seven years ago today your dad/grandpa was the ripe old age of 19.  He was on a minelayer, destroyer at Iwo Jima in the south Pacific, with a crew of 300 men.  U.S.S. Lindsey. They were hit by 3 Kamikaze planes. They had been threatened by them many times but either shot them down or they missed.  Just as simple as that.  I remember him telling that one of the pilots survived and a young young Japanese man just like Len and scared to death.  They held him prisoner on the ship and not sure what ever happened.

 Len  was very lucky to be a survivor as one/third of the crew was lost or badly injured, and half the ship was destroyed. A son of one of the men who died that day keeps in touch with me.  From Abilene, KS. 

I know I have told this story before over and over, but just can’t help but think about it each year.

 Len would fly the flag at half mast for his shipmates and always stood at the bottom of the flag pole and looked up for a while. He was always sad that day.  At that tender age of 19, it was something he could not imagine. He had been in the navy two years by then.  At 17 he ran away from home and would not come back until his mother signed the papers for him to join the Navy.  She finally did and he left school to go.

WWII was a very patriotic war. Pearl Harbor, Hawaii, had been attack by the Japanese.  The young men and women wanted to serve their country in any way they could and many lost their lives because of it.

 He came home, finished his senior year in high school, and went to Morningside College in Sioux City, Ia. and graduated in three years with majors in Business and Religion.  It cost him $3.27 as he went under the G.I. Bill.  The government treated the soldiers of that era very well. All his close buddies from Sioux City got their degrees also and continued to be very close. One of them, it is his wife’s recipe for “Iowa Taverns”. So there.  🙂 

 O.K.  Enough sentimentalizing.  I love you all, just as he loved you all.  So so much.

 Mom/Grama

Shaken back into the present moment by an e-mail that reminded me that I’m not alone in my journey, even though it feels that way some times.  My mother’s brothers all served their country during wartime.    And they lied about their age in order to do it. Jack, Carl, and Kenny Fletcher served proudly in Korea and Vietnam.  They sent their paychecks home so that my mother could be a cheerleader and have pretty dresses for dances.  Families were different then.  Children as young as 17 years old were enlisting in order to help support their parents during a rough economy.   My uncle Jack was a POW.  He was our family’s John Wayne. He owned a ranch in Cheyenne Wyoming.  He died at age 50 from chemical exposure during Vietnam that damaged his heart and lungs.  My grandmother cried like a baby at his funeral.  She was 80.

Somebody else’s children are deploying over and over and over again.  Somebody else was visited by a government vehicle today.  May they find peace in knowing that most Americans appreciate their sacrifice.  Thank you for your service Len Corkhill.  May you rest in peace. You raised a really great kid.