Monday, May 31, 2010

A Tribute to My Two Sons in the Military, by Noemi Rabina

My son, Wilfred Rabina, Jr. served in the US Navy for 20 years. He just retired on January 2010. He was on board the USS Abraham Lincoln and has traveled the deep blue seas. They have anchored in continents of Hawaii, Philippines, Australia, and USA. Other times, they were stationed on land for about four years each in Japan, Washington State and San Diego, California.

There was a time when they were on board their ship in a dangerous zone. They did not docked on land but stayed miles away. It was about the time when a US ship was hit by a missile bomb that killed some crew members. Their safety was not sure but they answered the call of duty. I was touched to hear him say that “he is not afraid for he knows where he is going.” Such a strong faith, believing that there is a new life beyond the far horizon.

My youngest son, Noel, is with the National Guard. He is deployed for the 2nd time to Iraq. The first was in 2005. This is a mother grieving again after he left this month of May. He has been calling often while they were still on training in Fort Hood, Texas, to the time they reached Kuwait on their way to Iraq. He has not yet given us information about his assignment. It could be a military secret. What he has been telling us are those that he sees in Kuwait, the hunch back camels with their young ones. I told him to take pictures and send them to us. We continued to give him our blessings and encouragement and to pray always for guidance and safety in serving the country.

I miss him at home. I miss preparing an extra plate for his breakfast. I miss his noise, his doing heavy things at home, his time in tending our pet dogs and cat. I miss staying awake late at night waiting for his return home from school or work or from company of friends. Most of all, I miss him seating beside me in church on Sunday. Who can comfort us during this time? The Lord promised not to leave us, to give us hope and peace of mind and soul. He said, ”Let not our hearts be troubled, neither let it be afraid.” Under His wings we will find our refuge and I believe that His words are true.

Our password is Psalm 91. “Those who go to God Most High for safety will be protected by the Almighty. I will say to the Lord, ‘You are my place of safety and protection. You are my God and I trust you.’ ”

Friday, May 28, 2010

Memorial Day, by Annette Skarin

Officially proclaimed on May 5 1868, by General John Logan, for those who had died during the Civil War, this day was later changed to honor all who had died while in service during war.

This past month I was rifling through my mother’s memorabilia she had saved over the years before she passed away in 2003. I ran across a newspaper article with a picture of a silhouetted figure of a soldier kneeling by a small American flag; planted patriotically in the ground. The title underneath read: THOSE WHO SACRIFICED ARE REMEMBERED…World War I veteran Roy Bolar, 2415 Calumet Court, kneels at veteran’s grave in Lincoln Memorial Park. This was a picture of my Grandmother Esther’s brother.

I knew I had an Uncle Fred whom I had never met. He was adopted by my grandparents, Jay J. Allen and his wife Esther, after he tragically lost his parents in a car accident on Ocean Blvd., in Long Beach, California in 1931. He had become securely integrated as a member of the family, which also consisted of three sisters: Dorothy (my mother), Ginger and Janet.

My grandfather had been honorably discharged from the Navy on January 16, 1922, after serving his time in France. Then in 1940, after being a successful business owner, and while still in the prime of life, he suddenly became ill and was hospitalized. He wrote to his oldest daughter (my mother) that he had been diagnosed with arterial sclerosis cerebral but was expected to live till 80 years old. He died a few days later.

My grandmother had been a school teacher and also taught piano, but could not manage the family after her husband’s death. She sent her two oldest daughters, Dorothy and Ginger, to a Christian boarding school in Canada. My Uncle Fred was sent to a separate school, and while there he wrote many comforting letters to his mother.

After his graduation from high school, my Uncle Fred proudly followed in his father’s footsteps and joined the Navy during World War II. He wrote to my grandmother about his longing to return home in the spring of 1945. It was not to be. On Jan. 1, 1945, a plane stealthily cutting its engine, bounced off the deck of the ship, the SS John M. Clayton, riddling it with bullets and dropping a bomb over the side. The explosion caused the oil tanks to catch on fire. My uncle was one of four men who lost their lives that day. His body was burned beyond recognition, but he was still able to confirm who he was after being taken ashore, and before dying the next day.

A letter didn’t reach my grandmother until March 1, two months later. The end of the letter said…”You may be able to find some consolation as you remember your son, that his life was given for his country and the thought that he died for something rather than of something will also have its compensating value.”

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Uncle Cliff

It is fitting that we should officially begin a blog about memories when the country is about to celebrate Memorial Day in recognition of those who have given their lives so that you and I might tend our gardens, play games with our families, and read in bed.

And it is fitting for me, personally, to begin sharing your stories at a time when I am so filled with thoughts and feelings about a precious uncle who went home to be with his Lord yesterday, after a long life of service to those he cherished. Although he did not give his life in war, he did serve proudly in the Navy, defending the country he loved, and he lived his civilian life with grace, humor, and faithfulness.

Although my head is handling his passing well – it was the right time; he was definitely ready; he lived his life as a gift – my heart is aching as I walk through these days of grief. One more person that I love (and who loved me) will no longer be a part of my life. He was one of the adults who made this child feel welcome in this world, and one of the people who helped to make me who I am.

Wednesday, May 12, 2010

F is for Fellowship

By Judy Brandemihl

Where would I have been without the fellowship of my friends from memoir writing class?

You see, when we get older, friends (true friends) become more and more important. We’re retired for the most part, so we don’t have the daily interaction with co-workers, customers and associates that we once took for granted. Sadly, too, we often outlive our mates and sometimes many family members. Now too many of us live alone and depend on our Senior Center for a social life and the Memoir Writing class is the perfect place to find the very best of it. My husband and I are fortunate enough to still have one another’s companionship. Still, we need outside interests. I joined the memoir writing group several years ago and last year my husband joined me. Now he’s hooked and can’t wait for each Thursday afternoon with our friends there.

At our memoir writing class we not only exchange the mundane news of our week, we share our memories and our pasts. No, that’s not exactly it; what we share is our lives. Those folks who were once strangers that we might have passed without pause are now some of our closest friends. We freely confess our fears and our faults, knowing we will not be judged or ridiculed. We are among true friends, and they are like family. As in any family, there are some that we’re closer to than others, but they’re all there for you when you need them. They’re happy for you and sad for you. They celebrate with you and pray for you. They’re all a dear part of my life each week, and without them I’d feel as if I had lost my family.

We write our stories and exercise our brains at the same time. We laugh and we cry. We joke, encourage and give advice. We need and are needed. We’re not only writing our memoirs, we’re creating them.

In 2004, when I was diagnosed with lung cancer, my friends from class were there for me, giving me their support during the next difficult eight months. Just knowing this was a big part of my recovery.

Then, earlier this year, they were there for me again, this time to celebrate when I won a memoir-writing contest for the Long Beach Press Telegram. They didn’t allow me to stay shyly in the background. No, not them. They collected copies of the newspaper, asked for my autograph and praised my writing to any who would listen. My victory was their victory.

They are my classmates, yes, but even more they are my friends. Of course, more than anything, they are my “family,” and I’d hate to think of not spending each Thursday afternoon with them I’d hate to think that I wasn’t able to be there for them when they needed me.