We remember…

Mosaic Cross of Lt. Col. Charles O. Gilfillan

On this Veteran’s Day, my thoughts go to my dad.  He entered the Army Air Corps as a private and served in World War II.  His service continued through the Korean War and Vietnam.  He received his commission as an officer and retired as a Lt. Colonel in the US Air Force.  I’m very proud to be his son.

Last year, I participated in a unique “Art as Spiritual Therapy” retreat at the Catholic Conference Center.  As part of the retreat, people brought little mementos of their departed loved ones.  After my dad died, I became the keeper of a few boxes of medals, pins, dog tags, and other little items he treasured.  These rested in the forgotten recesses of a hall closet floor for years.

I brought them to the retreat and attached them to the premier symbol of remembering, a cross (see photo).  As I handled each piece I’d reflect upon what these meant to him, and what they meant to me.  It was a healing experience.  My grief moved from the sadness of death to the mystery of life after death.  My heart moved from all that I had lost to all I had gained.  My thoughts shifted from regrets of the past as a wayward teenage boy to thanksgiving for the present and all the virtues he modeled for me.  The mosaic cross hangs proudly by my bedside table, where I see it each evening when I go to bed.    

As I write this, I am humming the song we sang at his funeral Mass, “We Remember” by Marty Haugen.  In it, I hear the dual meaning of remembering the death of the Lord and remembering the death of another loved one: 

We remember how you loved us to your death,
And still we celebrate, for you are with us here;
And we believe that we will see you when you come,
In your glory, Lord, we remember, we celebrate, we believe.

November is a month of remembering and thankfulness.  Find some creative ways you can do both for the people you love.