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.