Remembering, I’ve discovered, is curious work. The memory is a house in which there are many mansions; enter into one of them, and a hidden door can spring open, luring you into a portion of the past you haven’t visited in years. But there it is, and you slip inside, and another door opens . . .
Tag Archives: non-fiction
from the Introduction:
This experimental unit became the most innovative air operation of the war. “Misty,” as it became known, on account of the call sign chosen by the first commander, borrowed many of its tactics from the slow FACs. But other techniques had to be developed on the fly. To see targets as small as a single truck camouflaged beneath trees, the Mistys flew low–often below the minimum allowed altitude of 4,500 feet. Anytime they buzzed over something valuable to the North Vietnamese, they attracted walls of antiaircraft fire. Every day was an asymmetric duel between men in the air and men on the ground. They had different guns and different advantages, yet the fight was as personal as if they were facing each other with bayonets.
It was a hush-hush mission. The mere formation of the fast FAC unit indicated how successful the North Vietnamese had been at defeating the slow FACs that were getting blown out of the sky. All the air defenses were being sent down the Trail–including surface-to-air missiles–were working. If the slow FACs couldn’t find the air defenses and help clear them out, that jeopardized all the other aerial missions near the Trail–including the B-52 bombing runs that were a key U.S. advantage. The Air Force wasn’t about to telegraph that vulnerability to Hanoi.
. . . There are still more than eighteen hundred Americans [in 2006] who presumably died during the Vietnam War and remain unaccounted for. . . . In little-noticed press releases, the Department of Defense announces the return of remains from Vietnam every week or two, on average. The announcements get little attention. yet across America, families that have been lacerated with anguish live through an experience they came to believe would never happen: the return of their loved ones. This is the tale of one missing man, the family who went on without him, and the extraordinary unit he served with when he disappeared. There are many, many other stories like this one.
Several years ago (probably 1999 or maybe 2000), I attended a Spiritual Retreat led by Macrina Wiederkehr. I will never forget this retreat; it was special in every way and Macrina Wiederkehr spoke to my heart.
I’m re-reading her book, A Tree Full of Angels , and I am revisiting the same feelings I had during that Very Spiritual Retreat.
Macrina Wiederkehr, OSB., is an author and spiritual guide and a Benedictine monastic of St. Scholastica Monastery in Fort Smith, Arkansas. She travels throughout the United States and Canada as a retreat director. In her retreats seekers are guided through experiences of silence, contemplation, and faith sharing. Many of her retreat themes come from her writings. She also draws extensively from literature and poetry and enjoys creating rituals.
From A Tree Full of Angels:
What God most longs to discover in us is our willingness to embrace ourselves as we are at our beginning–empty, little, and poor. . . . Acceptance of our littleness makes it possible for our greatness to emerge. Our littleness is not a choice. It is simply the way we are. Our greatness, however is a choice. When we choose to accept the life God has given to us, when we allow God to fill our emptiness, we are choosing greatness.
. . . We are not the only ones with an ache in our hearts. God’s ache for us is immense. Listen to God’s ache in my paraphrase of Hosea 11:3-4, 8:
I myself taught Ephraim to walk, I held them in my arms, but they did not know that I was crying for them, that I was leading them with human ties, with strings of love. . .. I was like someone lifting an infant . . . Ephraim, how could I part with you? Israel, how could I give you up.
. . . To pray is to touch God and let God touch us. It is a matter of presence and response. Prayer does nothing to make God more present, for God is always present. Prayer is our response to the presence of God in our lives.
Although I know of course the importance of Bible reading, now and then I receive nourishment from writers such as Macrina Wiederkehr, Thomas Merton, Henri Nouwen, Eugene Peterson, C. S.Lewis, Richard Foster, Dallas Willard, Andrew Murray – the list goes on.
Every now and then I just need to stop, look, and listen for God in the here and now – and reading Macrina’s book helps to give me perspective and peace.
The Other Side of Sadness by George A. Bonanno, according to Daniel Gilbert, Professor of Psychology, Harvard University is ‘a game changer. Bonanno carefully assembles evidence to show that most of what we thought we knew is just plain wrong. If you want to know the truth about the human experience of loss, there’s only one book on the shelf.’
We have all experienced loss at one time or another.
A. Sachs writes that death is more universal than life; everyone dies but not everyone lives.
An excerpt from the book in a section titled Laughing in the Face of Death:
Probably the biggest insight into emotion and bereavement comes from positive emotions. There is something counterintuitive about putting positive emotion and grief in the same sentence. Historically, positive emotions received almost no attention in the bereavement literature and when they were mentioned it was almost always in the context of denial. It was assumed that a joyous emotion during grieving could only interfere with or suppress the normal process of working through the loss. As it turns out, this more folk wisdom than science. Positive emotions do more than simply indicate that we are feeling good, and they occur in almost every kind of situation, even in situations as difficult as bereavement.
Author Bonanno quotes some lines in Joan Dideon’s character in the stage play which was adapted from her memoir The year of Magical Thinking:
The show opens with Didion’s character standing alone and withered before her audience, a harbinger of grief to come. She quietly gives her audience the sobering information: Her husband died on December 30, 2003. “That may seem a while ago, but it won’t when it happens to you.” Then, the clincher, “and it will happen to you. The details will be different, but it will happen to you. That’s what I am here to tell you.”
Death is part of life.
“We cope well with loss because we are equipped–wired, if you will–with a set of in-born psychological processes that help us do the job. The most obvious of these is our ability to feel and express sadness. When we feel sad, we are more likely to turn our attention inward, to reflect, take stock, and recalibrate to the reality of the loss. When we express sadness, we tell others that we are in pain, that our minds are elsewhere, and that we are likely to need their care and sympathy, especially during the early days and weeks of bereavement.
“All emotions, including sadness, are designed to be short-term solutions. If we remain in a constant state of sadness or feel sad for too long a time, we run the risk of ruminating and withdrawing from the world around us. If we express too much sadness, we begin to alienate the very people whose help and support we most need.
“Fortunately, nature has provided a built-in solution. Rather than staying sad for long periods of time, our experience of the emotion comes and goes. It oscillates. Over time the cycle widens, and gradually we return to a state of equilibrium.”
The last paragraph in Bonanno’s book is an observation from a woman (Karen Everly) about her feelings years after the death of her daughter.
It’s a bit like a fading light. It grows dim but it never goes out, never, not completely anyway. I find that enormously reassuring. I used to worry that someday the light would disappear–that I would forget, and then I would really have lost Claire. I know, now, that doesn’t happen. It can’t. There is always a little flicker there. It is a bit like the small glowing embers you see after a fire dies down. I carry that around with me, that little ember, and if I need to, if I want to have Claire next to me, I blow on it, ever so gently, and it glows bright again.