Monday, May 25, 2009

The Last Goodbye


"If you are able, save for them a place inside of you and save one backward glance when you are leaving for the places they can no longer go. Be not ashamed to say you loved them, though you may or may not have always. Take what they have taught you with their dying and keep it with your own. And in that time when men decide and feel safe to call the war insane, take one moment to embrace those gentle heroes you left behind.

Major Michael Davis O'Donnell, Vietnam Listed as KIA February 7, 1978

He remembered the face peering through the window. A longing, lonely wave said the last goodbye. My dear husband, Jeff, a tall, lanky, fourteen year old boy, returned the glance of his much beloved uncle, almost a boy himself, but aged enough to venture into a tumultuous, erratic war of the 1960's that called many brave young men from their roots to dense, perilous forests and bloody fields filled with hopeless, heartless soldiers, in shock from the trauma of their new home, violence, bloodshed, horror, pain, and grief.

Jeff stared, watching, as Nick drove away, leaving my husband at his Boy Scout meeting. Later that afternoon, Nick would leave his sweet little home on a north Georgia hill and begin an hour's drive to Atlanta, where a plane would signify his journey to the killing fields of Vietnam. In the quiet hours that come after the somber leaving of one so loved, Jeff studied the life of his uncle. He pondered the one he had come to know and grown to love, his mother's loving, stout younger brother, who was more like a brother to Jeff himself than the uncle he was.

Jeff believed Nick invincible. His belief was built on the actualities of Nick's self. He was robust, healthy, scarcely a novice at life, full of courage, and undaunted by anything life swung his way. Jeff remembered playing a game of darts with him. One dart accidentally hit Nick in the leg, penetrating his tough flesh. His uncle immediately pulled it out and threw it down as if nothing had happened. That was Nick. Brave. Immune to fear. Unshaken by shock. Unyielding to pain.

So, Jeff had every reason to believe a safe return home awaited his dear uncle, his friend, his hero in life. How could any less be possible for one so strong and valiant? What else could a fourteen year old boy be expected to believe? Jeff's last conversation with his uncle is now in my husband's mind and heart, forever engraved, letters in stone. He hears Nick's powerful voice as if yesterday they spoke. "You'll be back," with believing heart, he told Nick. Nick's quiet response gave young, teenage Jeff a pause of shock. "Watch out for Mama and Daddy. Their getting older. They don't have much money. They need somebody to take care of them. . . . Because I know I won't be coming back." It was much too much for Jeff's youthful heart. However disturbed, he remained endeared to his hopefulness of seeing Nick again.

Six months later billows of grief surged through the Janes family. A hollow knock on a dear mother's door brought news feared by all whose loved ones live on hostile foreign soil, fighting for freedom and love of country. On a cool morning in the coastal city of Nha Trang, a claymore mine had unexpectedly detonated as Nick attempted to disarm it. Nick was instantly killed. His body was returned to his beloved home in the North Georgia hills, and the family, including my dear husband, was wrought with the sting of death.

On a lovely, warm summer evening in 2003, my husband and I enjoyed a late walk in the stately city of Washington, D. C. Brought there by a church council meeting, the opportunity gave us time to soak in the sights of our country's capital. Our final design at that day's end was to visit the Vietnam Memorial. We feared the darkness might thwart our purpose, yet we
pursued our course, longing for a glimpse of Nick's name on the massive monumental wall.

Thumbing through the voluminous book of those who had died or remained missing for their country in the easternmost part of the Indochina Peninsula, we quickly found his name, Nicklos Byron Janes, along with the listed wall section, where we could witness Nick's personal memorial, carved into the black granite wall. We walked. I wondered at the soon realization of our expectation. Our steps increased with anticipation. I felt my heartbeat rise as we drew near. Finding the proper section, we quickly found Nick's name. We gazed and touched. Felt the smooth, silky stone. Stood, in memorable pause, at the name of a loved one, gathered with what would now be 58,259 others. It was at once humbling and staggering. Pure and tragic. Sobering and thoughtful.

Today we honor Nick and millions of others who served and gave all for love of God and country. And now, in the reminder of loss, I am reminded of the reality of death and the truth of God's word. For Christians and all, the Apostle Paul, appeals through the scriptures that "Death is swallowed up in victory," and he says, "O death, where is your victory? O death, where is your sting?" (I Corinthians 15:54,55).

May we all remember. May we all take pause. May we all believe in hope. May we all trust in God's infallible word. For those for whom we mourn, who followed the path of Christ, wait patiently on the other side. With the Lord, they are present, in their heavenly home. May any grief we feel not yield to bondage, but may it rather rise in faith, knowing that we are all in a temporal state, living for an eternal destiny, a sure hope. And may this hope, this blessed promise of Jesus Christ, render us today and always to a life of service for Him, and an always there faith that credits us with righteousness and prepares us for our better place.

Matthew Henry, a devoted theologian of the eighteenth century, spoke eloquently this truth: "Tears are a tribute to our deceased friends. When the body is sown, it must be watered. But we must not sorrow as those that have no hope; for we have a good hope through grace both concerning them and concerning ourselves." May the peace of God go with you today and bring you holy pause and sweet remembrance, giving you special grace and rich thoughts in Christ for the week ahead.


23 comments:

  1. What an awesome tribute to your husbands uncle!
    Thank you for sharing his story.
    Blessings on you, your dear husband and all your family as we remember those men and women, past and presently serving us and preserving the freedom of our Nation.
    God Bless America!

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  2. Thank you so much for sharing this story. What a reminder of the price that is paid for our freedom. Oh how I thank God for these men and women who have fought to keep us free!
    Blessings to you this week!

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  3. Beautiful! You have such a rich, unique way with words, my friend. The solemn nature of your tribute gripped me, but so too the beauty of our glorious hope. They are not gone; they are not forgotten. They are merely out of sight for now.

    Be blessed,
    Kathleen

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  4. Hi Andrea,

    I'm so sorry that your husband lost his Uncle Nick. Thank you for this poignant reminder that the freedom we experience in America was paid for by the lives of valiant soldiers such as he.

    My Uncle Rick served in Vietnam; I well remember my Gram packing him care packages filled with Twinkies and other goodies (the crazy things a kids remembers! ha!)But unlike your husband's uncle, my uncle returned home.

    May God bless you and your husband and your families. Happy Memorial Day!

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  5. Dear Andrea,

    Thank you for sharing this part of your husband's life. It is realities like these that give true meaning to a day like today, Memorial Day. May we never take for granted the freedom God has allowed us to have in this country through the sacrifice of men and women that have given their lives for it.

    Blessings,
    Mrs. Teapot

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  6. Thank you so much for stopping by my blog. Reading your blog today took my breath away and brought tears to my eyes.
    Not only to remember today of all those who paid with their lives for our freedom, may I never get over the ultimate freedom that comes from CHRIST alone.
    GOD bless,
    Laura

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  7. I don't even know Nick, but the way you wrote about him, the feelings and emotions surrounding your words, made me read your post with tears. I am crying for the utter senselessness of war, the violence, the inhumanity, the cruelty of it all. The trauma of facing "soldiers" who played dirty, and Nick was just among those caught in the crossfire of a war that should not have been waged in the first place.

    Death is an enemy... and of course I can relate to this, having just recently lost my own dear husband.

    I would want you to read my post entitled Homesick, for that post describes what I feel in my heart each time I read of someone dying and going home to heaven.

    I also think that Wasihngton DC is one of the most beautiful places in the world. I was there in 2003. America is a beautiful land. I pray often for your land and people, especially these days when America is at the crossroads of destiny.

    My post "Homesick" is found at

    http://mla-crownofglory.blogspot.com/2008/03/homesick.html

    Blessings be on you and Jeff today, even as you re-live the pain, but look at it with the eyeglasses of hope!
    Thank you for this post.

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  8. Wow. Thank you for sharing that. I loved seeing the Vietnam Memorial in D.C.

    Thanks for coming to my blog. Yours is one of the prettiest that I've ever seen. I am a pastor's wife, too.

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  9. Dearest Andrea,

    As you share this tribute to your husband's uncle, a man that made an impact in your husband's life and now in many others that read this post.

    I am, again, convinced that it is through this sacrifice that we can walk freely and without fear in this great nation!

    May Our Lord continue to guide us to pray for this great nation and for us to never forget...

    blessings,

    lady m

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  10. Hi Andrea,
    Thank you so much for stopping by my blog for a visit!
    You're story about your husband's uncle is very moving. We all need to be reminded of the sacrifice that so many have given to protect our freedom here in America.

    Blessings,
    Carol

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  11. A moving tribute to your husband's uncle ...

    I'm reminded, as I read this, that we were so blessed to have my husband's father all these years. He died this year, due to exposure to Agent Orange during Vietnam, but we had him for 40 extra years (years that your Nick did not have). I need to remember that ...

    Thank you for your story.

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  12. A lovely tribute to Nick and others who have so valiantly given of their freedom for ours. Thanks for giving us a window into the life of your family.

    peace~elaine

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  13. Andrea,
    Have a wonderful week. I so enjoy your post and how you write so beautifully.
    Blessings to you always.
    ~Deanna~

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  14. My heart aches for your family today. I pray peace for your husband. Stories like this one make me long for the day Christ will return and end all sorrow, pain, and war. You're a blessing to me. Jennifer

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  15. Andrea,

    This is such a beautiful tribute not only to your husband's uncle but to all of our brave military personnel who have sacrificed so willingly for our country. May God continue to bless and protect our military and their families.

    Blessings,

    Kim

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  16. Thank you ,
    God Bless you for this tribute told not only for Nick ,but for all those we are missing .
    Blessings to you .

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  17. What a BEAUTIFUL touching tribute to your
    Uncle and all of those who defended so valiantly for this wonderful Country!!!!
    Bless you dear friend... it is always a JOY
    to visit you!!

    Love in Christ,
    Jen

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  18. What a wonderful tribute. My husband and I have visited that same wall. It is quite an experience...such sadness and yet such honor. My own son will be deployed before too long. I covet your prayers. Thank you for sharing this.

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  19. What a story, I know it's stays in the mind, everyday I pray for peace with the wars and that all are safe. Great share.
    Blessings

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  20. Andrea,
    I'm so glad you liked Rachel's testimony. I have found myself thinking about her, and remembering things she said....it's wonderful how a sermon is best 'lived' and not spoken, isn't it?
    I wanted to tell you how I have enjoyed your Grandma story, and of course, the story about Nick.
    It is so joyous to be here. I thank God He has brought us together.
    Love, Debra, from Sparrowgrass

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  21. What a wonderfully moving account you paint with your words of tribute. Have you ever thought of writing a novel?

    Thank you for your visits and your kind comments. I hope you have a wonderful day.

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  22. Andrea,
    First, I must thank you for your lovely comments regarding my own blog. I appreciate your reading and am graeful you were blessed.
    Secondly, I must say that I am enjoying your blog immensely. I have read every post and have been so thoroughly blessed. when I read your profile, my heart jumped because we share such a love of the same things. I am so grateful that there are others whose love of Christ, home, literature and music is the same. It creates a common bond between us.
    Thank you again, my dear, for being such a blessing and such an encouragement.
    May God bless you richly.

    In Grace,
    Marie

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  23. Hello Andrea,

    As I began reading your post I knew I had to brace myself for a painful memory. It must have been so devastating for your husband at such a young age...any age really.
    I have an uncle who went off to Vietnam and came home, but has never been the same and doesn't know the Lord. How sad it must be to have no hope, but how thankful I am that the Lord knows our hearts deeply and personally and can heal every wound :).

    I hope you have a blessed day!

    xoxo Cori

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Thank you for visiting. I cherish your thoughts. You are special to me, but most of all, you are special to God, who loves you with everlasting love. May your life be swept into His joy and peace.

In the Wonderful Love of Christ our Savior,

Andrea