>Sons and Angels and Beaches: Remembering Katrina and more…

>Today is my oldest son Jonathan’s 30th birthday. I wrote a little about dancing with my daughter, Beth, at a wedding last Sunday, but I’ve tried to leave my kids out of this blog, so as not to embarrass them. But how can I leave them out when they are so much a part of me? So today is going to be about my boys (with a nod to my daughter, who will probably end up front and center in a future post.)

Jon flies helicopters for the Army. He did a year in Iraq (in 2003-4) as a door gunner on a blackhawk, then went to Warrant Officer School and became a pilot last November. Now he flies kiowas. (That’s one in the picture behind him.) We can’t celebrate his 30th with him because he’s finishing up some more training this week and can’t get away. Last night I got out old photo albums from 1977 (yes, he was born two weeks after Elvis died, for what that’s worth) and was brought to tears by what I saw on the first few pages from August of 1977. Pictures of nine different family members holding Jon as a baby … nine people who are no longer with us. During my oldest son’s 30 years I’ve lost both grandmothers, my father’s brother, my father, my husbands’ parents, my last remaining aunt and uncle, and my brother. Seven of those dear people died in the past 9 years, so Jon was able to know them. (I was blessed to be with three of them as they died, thanks to Hospice… but that’s a story for another day.) This day is about sons. And angels. And beaches.
Angels? Absolutely. Both of my boys (we’ll get to Jason shortly) are on a list of soldiers’ names that circulates amongst dozens of Orthodox churches. They are prayed for by name at the end of the Liturgy in many of these churches, in a special prayer written by one of our bishops. This was started in March of 2003, when the Iraq invasion began in earnest, and Jon was driving a humvee into Baghdad from Kuwait. There are stories he can tell, of a bomb crashing through the wall of the building he was sleeping in in Mosul, for example, and countless other times he was protected from harm. By these prayers? Absolutely. And angels? For real. At baptism, each Orthodox Christian is given a guardian angel to be with him throughout life. An abbess once told me that monastics get two angels. I think soldiers might get three, but I can’t verify this.

Some of those family deaths I mentioned earlier have been times the Army has let Jon come home… once from Iraq, actually, for his grandmother’s funeral. This past February both boys and our daughter were able to be here for my brother’s funeral, (photo of all of us with my mom after the burial) as they were again in May for their grandfather’s burial at a military cemetery in Chattanooga. One of their cousins was pregnant at this last one and I thought, how appropriate–life goes on.

I love to celebrate things, so this past November we went to Jon’s graduation from flight school at Fort Rucker and then took him and four of his friends to the beach at Seagrove for a few days. Amazing place… I’ve been back twice since then (see photos of sunsets at Seagrove in left column of blog.) A few pix of our celebration are included here.

But that brings to mind another day at the beach … August 28, 2005– I had taken my mother and my daughter to Biloxi to visit my other son, Jason, at Keesler Air Force Base. We took him and his best friend, Ben, out to dinner at an amazing restaurant in an antebellum home… that was destroyed two days later. My mother watched us from the balcony of our hotel (also no longer there) and I had my morning coffee and read for a while all of twenty feet from the water’s edge. (tiny photo at right) Beth and I rode jet skis (no photos, thank God!) in the ocean that would destroy property and people for miles around us just 48 hours later. Looking at those pictures now is surreal.
Mom, Beth and I drove back to Jackson, Memphis and Knoxville on the 29th, listening to the warnings about Hurricane Katrina on the car radio as we drove. We got out in plenty of time. Jason stayed at Keesler, which took a fairly big hit. In fact, when his group shipped out for their next station in California, he volunteered to stay on and help with the cleanup effort. He physically dragged trees and debris off the airstrips so that planes could bring in supplies for the devastated Gulf coast residents who survived the loss of their homes and more.
Jason is still in the Air Force, but he’s also a writer. Check out his blog, Scattered Words and Forgotten Meanings, and read about the fantasy novel he’s writing, Sunset of Honor. (He’s a big Robert Jordan fan.) A few of his soulful poems are posted, as well.
At one point I thought I might end up with three soldiers, when the Citadel was after my daughter to play soccer for them back in 2001… but she stayed out of uniform and is now in graduate school for architecture. More about her another time. (She’s reading this and thinking, “whew! narrow escape!”)

Oh, since I’m posting pictures, I guess I’ll mention that they’re all three adopted: Jason and Beth are from South Korea and Jon is from Mississippi, where we were living when we adopted each of them. We’re all about diversity.

If you read this blog very often, you know how much song lyrics speak to my heart. I always think, “she’s writing that to me,” or “how does she know exactly how I feel or what I’m going through?” (Kind of like the Arlo and Janis comic strips that my husband often brings me with my morning coffee–yes, he really does bring me coffee in bed every morning–and we read them and look at eachother and wonder if our house is under video surveillance or how else would they know so much about us?) Why does this surprise me, that musicians and artists and poets and writers can do this… can give such amazing voice to the stuff of our everday lives? Isn’t that our job? Isn’t that what we’re supposed to do? Are poets the only ones who can name things? Maybe all true artists are poets….
So, I’ll close with a love song to my Children and the Angels who watch over them… and Jesus. It’s from Mindy Smith’s CD, “One Moment More,” and it’s called “Come to Jesus.” You can play a sample here. Or just read the lyrics and let the words remind you that yes, there are angels…. And when you get to the last verse, think about people you love who are waiting for you in Heaven, where “you’ll finally understand.”

Oh, my baby, when you’re older
Maybe then you’ll understand
You have angels that stand around your shoulders
‘Cause at times in life you need a loving hand

Oh, my baby, when you’re prayin’
Leave your burden by my door
You have Jesus standing by your bedside
To keep you calm, keep you safe, Away from harm

Worry not my daughters,
Worry not my sons
Child, when life don’t seem worth livin’
Come to Jesus and let Him hold you in His arms

Oh, my baby, when you’re cryin’
Never hide your face from me
I’ve conquered hell and driven out the demons
I have come with a life to set you free

Worry not my daughters,
Worry not my sons
Child, when life don’t seem worth livin’
Come to Jesus and let Him hold you in His arms

Oh, oh
Oh, oh
Yeah, yeah, yeah
Oh, my baby, when you’re dying
Believe the healing of His hand
Here in Heaven we will wait for your arrival
Here in Heaven you will finally understand

Here in Heaven we will wait for your arrival
Here in Heaven you will finally understand
Worry not my daughters,
Worry not my sons
Child, when life don’t seem worth livin’
Come to Jesus and let Him hold you in His arms

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