Last week, I asked you to share a story from your loved one’s life. Several survivors wrote about their favorite memories of their loved one. I have confidence that you will enjoy the events and they will bring a smile to your face as they did to mine as I read them. As you think of these memories of your own loved one, perhaps think about getting a journal and writing them down. This way, when you have a down day or want to share a story with someone, these wonderful occasions are right where you can put your hands on them quickly.
The Question for This coming week: See the list of TAPS events that are scheduled so far this year. To help those who are thinking about attending an event for the first time this year decide what might be helpful to them, perhaps survivors who have attended a TAPS event could share their thoughts on the following: What did you like best at a TAPS event?
From Susan, surviving mother of Jeanne: Even though it is almost 4 years since Jeanne died, I could not answer last week’s question, but this week's brought me great introspective. Jeanne was a thoughtful, unselfish, caring, insightful and loving person. She took leave to help me rehabilitate my father, her grandfather, after his hip replacement while she was pregnant with her first child. She left 3 detailed individual chronological scrapbooks of herself and of each of her two children's lives, school correspondences, accomplishments, and travels to remind them of their lives with her. She insisted and gave us a puppy. She said we would need something to love and nurture, since we were anticipating retirement. That gift has sustained us for the last 4 years. We have cuddled her while screaming and crying into her fur. She never flinched or backed away, just gave us unfailing love and devotion just like Jeanne. Jeanne always told us she would be there for us in our senior years, but since she had no control, she provided the next best thing: something to constantly remind us of her. We always wondered "Did she know?" We know she loved us so much she didn't want us to be totally alone. She was the best. She left her children a great gift: her legacy.
From Deborah, surviving mother of Jeremy: My son, SPC Jeremy T. English, had just returned home from a year’s deployment. Since his home base was only about 45 minutes from home, he was often still in the house on his days off. One day he called me on the phone. And we talked about a few important things and just chit- chatted. So I decided he really didn't want to be carrying on a long conversation with his mother, so I attempted to end the call. Just didn't want to feel like the over bearing mother. He quickly said, “You don't want to talk to your son?" and I replied, "Well, I just thought maybe you didn't want me to be so overbearing". Somehow he managed to continue the conversation going on and on. Normally, I always kept my blinds open in the living room, but for some reason that day I had them closed. As I was talking to him, I saw a shadow on the blind from outside, so I was about to peep thru the blind. Suddenly, the door opened and it was my son. I felt like an angel had walked through the door. I jumped up and gave him the biggest hug I ever had given him in his whole life. I am almost positive. The words he said to me that day I will never forget. He said," I bet you didn't think you were going to get to see me today did you?” I was so happy to see him that day...I will always believe that he got his wings that day. A week or so later he was involved in the accident that ultimately took his life. This will always be one of my fondest memories of him.
From Frank, surviving father of Joe: Joe was on a submarine. He had just come off a deployment from Cape Canaveral, Fla. He told all his shipmates, he was going to steal a space suit and a monkey. He and the monkey were going to hijack a rocket, and go into space. WHAT???? The Commander told me this story as we waited for Joe's service to start. I wondered why Joe would want to go to space. The Commander said, "Almost all submarine sailors want to go to space. We are in a dark world under the ocean, and wonder if space is the same." He agreed with "Shaky"(Joe), except for the stealing of spacesuits, monkeys, and space ships. My wife Audra, son William, and I laughed until we cried. Joe "Shaky" Casson was definitely a character, but he also inspired his shipmates. They all wanted to go into space with Shaky. I, too, want to go. We never will physically, yet, somehow, Joe is in space, with a monkey, laughing at us all. How I miss him.
From Deb, surviving mother of Elizabeth: This past Thursday, January 10th, was the seven year mark that we are unable to hold our Beth. Tom and I talked about this exact thing...our favorite memory. My choice was easy. It was a day between December 26 and 30, 2005. Beth was sitting at the kitchen table doing a number puzzle. I came up behind her and was running my fingers through her hair. She leaned backwards so we were eye to eye with me above her. I bent down and kissed her on the forehead and said, "We love you. You do know that, don't you?" She stood up and hugged me and said, "Mom, even if I wanted to forget that, you wouldn't let me. I love you, too." When they came into our rooms to tell us that the plane was located and there were no survivors on January 12th, I cried and said I didn't have a chance to tell her I loved her. Brad, her fiancé, was with us and he said that was one thing we didn't have to say, because she knew. He said she had told him that family was love and that was one thing she never questioned as she grew up; she was loved no matter what.
From Mary O, surviving mother of Timothy: I was cleaning out my closet an hour ago and found two remnants of my son Tim's childhood stuck between the pages of a dust drenched Emily Dickinson book of poems - a picture of him on his Holy Communion day with the cat draped in the diaphanous folds of the living room curtain and a poem he wrote on a piece of yellow ruled paper. The poem, stashed in the Dickinson book, is still here - paper clipped to my son’s adorable, angelic photo! I want to share it as it is so to the moment and longs to be connected to all those who loved our American heroes. We are community in the truest sense of the word.
Red is the truth one.
He punched out yellow.
Blue is in jail
For stealing Green’s car
Red is a weight lifter
He is stronger than Arnold Schwarzenegger
I want to have no school
Timothy Jeremiah Feehan (first grade)
From Leslie, mother of Eugene: Narrowing it down to one story....so I begin with his elementary school days. He was so different from the other kids. He couldn't sit and we thought there was something very wrong. Turned out he just saw things differently from everyone else which turned out to be great for the Intelligence of the US Navy. One day he told me he made some "cloth thing" in art and it's going to a museum. After all the nonsense in school, I phoned to see what story this was. It was the truth. He had make batik in art class at the age of 8 and everyone loved it, so it hung in the Children's Museum for a month framed and all. Finally, it came back to Gene and he brought it home. I hung it in my hallway. A few years later it hung in my bedroom. Finally, I had money to frame it beautifully and hung it back in my room. So, he came home on leave and noticed this great frame. He asks, “Why? Why waste your money on that? “I told him, “Why not? I love that batik and love the little boy who grew into a fabulous man who created it.” Well, he said nothing. He stood there looking at his work with a grin that was priceless. I moved after he died - it still hangs in a prominent place and I am sure he is still grinning from heaven.
From Cherie’, stepmom of Samuel: Sam was so full of life. He was always doing something whether it was scouting, school activities or later when he was older, working on his car or working for money for gas and parts for his car. One of my many precious memories was when I had to drop him off for a scouting weekend camp out and he gave me a big kiss and hug. All the other scouts started making fun of him and saying things like "Aww, little Sammy has to get hugs from his mommy." Sam turned right around and said to all of them "You know, no one knows what tomorrow will bring and we all can only hope to get to see it but if I don't, I want my family to know that I loved them very much." Then he turned around to me and said "I love you and I'll see you Sunday afternoon." Nonetheless, all those boys turned right around and started giving hugs and kisses to their family members and the scout master came over to me and said "That young man will be a leader one day." I couldn't stop smiling for days....just one of so many wonderful things he did!