I was at the VA tonight with Daddy.
Outside in the hall in front of the room, an older retired vet sat doing a breathing treatment. He was missing his left arm.
That’s not what stood out, though. What I noticed was his spirit. I could hear his laugh as he spoke to the RN. It was contagious.
He looked through the glass into the room and smiled, and despite the distance between us I could see in his eyes so much. I could see a soul that had seen more than I could ever fathom.
For, the losses I have experienced in my life are ones which are a part of the general cycle of life itself. Death is inevitable, and people die over time. Loved ones grow old, and they pass on.
This man has seen far more than that. I could see just from a brief moment of eye contact that he had experienced death and loss in ways that would mentally flip me out. Yet he sat there with a smile the size of Texas, despite the fact that he lost a limb serving his country.
My Daddy is a very loving man, but he is a very disciplined and stern man as well. He is the type of man that an entire room respects just from the sense of his presence.
As we both watched that old vet, Daddy looked over at me. We locked eyes, and I saw tears in his eyes. I have never seen this man cry.
Although tears did not stream down his face, I could tell that seeing this vet and his spirit greatly touched his heart. He said, “I am going to close my eyes for a minute.” I knew what he was doing. He was closing his eyes so I did not see him cry.
This is so significant. Soldiers have many feelings. These old vets have seen things we could never possibly imagine, and you know what? They do cry. We just don’t see it.
Daddy has a way of teaching lessons with words of wisdom. He looked over at me and said:
“You know, when you’re a soldier you have to be prepared for conflict. You have to always be prepared to weather the storm and realize that any day could be your last. It’s a lot like life.
Part of growing up and maturity is not cracking under pressure. Well, when you are a soldier, you must always have that mentality. You may see your friend get shot, but you can’t let your emotions take control.
We were taught in training to use tobacco or dirt to block gun wounds on yourself — or a fellow soldier. You just never know what you may see, and you can’t let it knock you down or you would never make it. Just like life, you can’t let things get the best of you when hard times come.”
A few things came to mind here:
One, I have never been a soldier. I have no clue what they go through. Even those who have never been in direct combat deserve our utmost thanks and respect for their sacrifice. They have a strength many do not possess.
Two, our vets deserve to be taken care of.
Three, my Daddy… words cannot express what he means to me.
Four, wow. So many would look at that old vet and think, “Well his life must suck because he only has one arm.”
However, perhaps one’s attitude sucks for thinking such a thing. This man had more life in him than the fountain of youth. When I mentioned how amazing that vet was, Daddy said, “Well, that smile may have taken years.”
There Dad goes with his lessons through his words of wisdom. We are all faced with hardships. We all have our battles. We can lay down and hang our hats, or we can stand up like soldiers and battle that storm.
This night was very necessary. Also, I would like to say this: Don’t be afraid to love.
Yes, you may lose that person down the road, but don’t miss the opportunity to have that dance. You’ll never forget the music that song will play for you for the rest of your life.
You’ll carry that person with you forever, and they will always have that song in your heart.