Thursday, February 25, 2010

Conversation with a Soldier's Sister

Yesterday I went out for the first time, to a doctor's appointment in Spencer. After the doctor we went to Wal-Mart to pick up some things. Spencer is not my usual shopping town and I felt safe knowing I would not be likely to meet anyone I know face to face. I am just not ready for that yet.

We stopped at the photo center to see about scanning some photos sent to Larry by a friend he served with in Vietnam who recently got in touch after 40 years. The photos were in an album, stuck to the plastic cover and to the backing. The girl at the photo center advised us not to attempt to remove the pictures from the album because they would be damaged, and we reluctantly had to agree. So we'll scan them at home, knowing the quality will be poor because the plastic covering can't be removed.

As we discussed the photos the photo center girl commented that these were military pictures. Larry told her where he had gotten them.

She said, "My brother was in Afghanistan. He was killed there."

I stopped in my tracks. Had I heard correctly? Yes, I had. She told us her brother's name and I remembered reading about him: Jamie Nicholas, serving with the Special Forces. And not just Jamie: his brothers and a sister-in-law have also served. Clay County, his home, mourned his loss and honored him well. I followed the news about him closely, because Clay is not so far away; all solder's mothers share the grief of those who lose their children to war.

Our conversation was not tearful but on the edge of tears--pain mixed with pride as she talked about her brother, his commitment to his military career and his family, and about her parents and other siblings. My heart went out to this mother and father who not only lost their son, but did so in a land far away--and saw another son off to the same war just a few months later.

I went to Spencer to avoid meeting others who would offer condolences that I could not handle; instead I found myself sharing memories with a stranger so many years younger than me, but no stranger to sorrow. We are never alone on this journey, are we?


Maggie and Roger said...

It's amazing to me how you go out and somehow get something tiny but precious from a stranger. You really are great because you recognize gifts everywhere you go.

Nance said...

it is a world full of coincidence and serendipity. You went out, not wanting to be recognized, comforted or sympathized over. Yet you came across someone who you could help comfort and sympathize with. You could convey condolences.

(Condolences. My condolences. Extend condolences. Are these old fashioned, outdated phases? I use them yet I don't hear them used at all anymore.)

I am quite sure you helped this young sales clerk get through her day. It must have been precisely what she needed. We salute her brother; we salute Jaime Nicholas.

megan hicks said...

You write with grace ... about grace ... and it was by grace that I "just happened" to open your blog today.

Granny Sue said...

I find that many people live with quiet but extraordinary courage, Maggie, and even after tragedy find meaning in going on with their lives. I find it humbling; they have traveled the path ahead of me and are showing me the way.

Grace--You're right, Megan, grace lights our world, helping us see into each other's hearts. And Nance, serendipidity certainly was at play; I thought at the time how extraordinary that I should meet her on this particular day--I am still hiding in a way, yet she was at work, going through her day with this sorrow in her heart, but also with love and pride in the man her brother was.

jeanie said...

Oh Granny Sue. Somehow your stories comfort me so much. I can't wait until Cadyn is big enough to come to your storytelling events. I found your web page and have enjoyed it so much. I read some of your stories yesterday about being kids and the games you played. It was very entertaining. I'm thinking of you daily.

Granny Sue said...

Thank you, Jeanie. I am so glad you found my blog--there are many stories here you might like, and many pictures too.

Susan at Stony River said...

Wow. That just seemed meant to be. What a small world we live in--and it makes me wonder about all the stories we *don't* hear, that only come to us by chance. If those had simply been wedding photos or anything else, for instance, that shared moment wouldn't have happened.

It seems that Someone is reaching out to you every day with some tiny touch, some small comfort--what a beautiful thing.

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