Posted by: Naomi Baltuck | June 6, 2012

Today (we are all survivors)

We are all survivors, of our personal histories, our family lines, and of the human race.  Since the dawn of time, think of the families ended abruptly by a bullet, a spear, a club, a predator, illness, by accident and even by someone’s own hand.

Today is the anniversary of D-Day, the Normandy invasion in 1944.  It was the day my Uncle Lewis was launched onto the Normandy beaches into a cruel war.  I think it no coincidence that today is also the anniversary of my father’s death in 1965.

The day before he died, while his kids ran and laughed and played in the yard, my father planted a walnut tree—just a stick of a sapling–by the side of the house.  Did he know what he was going to do?  Did he plant that tree as his own memorial?

I hope not, because someone else is living in that little house in Detroit, and my Dad’s walnut tree is long gone, cut down in its prime.  This I know, because I drive past each time I go back to visit my Aunt Loena.   So these words must serve as a memorial to a World War II vet who came home without his little brother and best friend.  That was the sin his mother never forgave him for, the sin he could he never quite forgive himself for either.

My army buddy, Jack Oliver, attended boot camp with Uncle Lewis.  He helped me understand that my father was as much a victim of the war as my uncle.  When the War Department tallies the casualties, it counts the dead, the wounded, the missing in action.  But no one ever takes into account the broken hearts and broken families left by the wayside in the wake of war.  If they did, perhaps they would stop sending our children off to fight and die.

But today is a day a of forgiveness, a day of understanding, a day to be thankful that life goes on.  It is a day of sorrow, but most of all, today is a day to love.

Copyright 2012 Naomi Baltuck

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Responses

  1. Another day to live life to the fullest we can, in memory of those who no longer can. Thanks for sharing Naomi. I’m looking at a beautiful rainbow as I write this.

  2. It takes a lot of strength and courage to forgive and move on. I genuinely do not know how the victims of war do it; they must know that peace is worth it.

    • Yes, you have to look forward, or better yet, look into your own life and be grateful for all you have. Thanks so much for visiting.

  3. Does anyone come back whole if they come back? I deplore war. I’m sorry to hear about your walnut tree.

    • Hi Tess, I don’t mind. As they say in the African folk tale, so long as someone is there to remember and tell the story one is never truly dead.

  4. What a poignant story. Thanks for sharing it with us all. But how could your grandmother blame your father? How do you protect someone from a million different threats from a war? The day left many casualties, live and dead ones. I too wrote about this today.

    • Thank you, Elyse. I can only think that she was a mother who was crazed with grief, and try to forgive her too. I really appreciate your visit.

  5. Today has been a terrible and sad day for me, because this morning my grandmother died.
    I was just turning off the lights and heading for bed when I heard the computer (pling) meaning I got mail.
    I almost didn’t read this post, but for some reason I did…

    “It is a day of sorrow, but most of all, today is a day to love.”

    Thank you, Naomi and good night.

    • Oh, Maggie. I am so sorry for your loss.

  6. A good reminder that we leave behind a footprint . . . not always the memorial we intended, but often far beyond any expectation.

    • Thank you for stopping by, Mary, and for sharing your thoughts.

  7. As it is every day, today is a heart wrenching day for millions of people throughout the world as we continue to lose our children to war. WWII was a particularly brutal experience for so many families and returning veterans. They all lived with deep wounds always just below the surface. Most of them have found that elusive peace only in death.

    Your words are a fine memorial. The vet who came home without his brother is smiling today … I am certain of it.

    • So well said, George. Thank you so much.

  8. Oh! my heart.

    Jamie

  9. A really wonderful post, naomi. Yes, every family has in some way, suffered loss because of war. I mourn the family members that I never knew because of it.

    • Thank you so much for sharing your story.

  10. Not all wars are the same. There have been some wars, that people thought were worth fighting… sometimes, even worth dying for. Did your father feel that WWII was a waste of time? Did he regret that he took part in it?

    • War is always horrible, but World War II had to be fought and the Nazis had to be defeated–there really was no question about that. I believe that many (most) wars are fought without sufficient justification, but genocide must never be tolerated.

  11. Beautiful post. Beautiful site. Thank you for stopping by my blog and leaving a comment because it led me to your blog. Blessings to you.

    • Hi Cecelia. Thank you for the follow. I really enjoyed your blog, and look forward to reading more posts. Naomi

  12. Your words have the ring of coming straight from the heart – true and pure.

  13. War is violence, and violence is destruction which leaves behind it destruction and sadness. There is no way a human can be sent to fight a war, taught to kill or be killed, and not come out of it without being damaged. Yours is a beautifully poignant post.

    • What Carol said. She said it way better than I could have.

      It’s only these few years after the death of my father the fighter pilot that I realize even though he came home physically unscathed, the wounds he sustained never healed.

      • I’m sure that’s true, and no one who hasn’t lived through it can understand, so they can’t talk about it, and it just lives there inside, festering. Oh, my heart goes out to them all.

    • You are so right. Thank you, Carol. I appreciate your thoughts.

  14. Beautiful photos! Thanks so much for the great post!

  15. A really touching post, written with real thought and meaning.

  16. I appreciate your stopping by and taking the time to comment.

  17. This is beautiful, Naomi. Just beautiful.

    • Thank you, Jessica, and thanks for stopping by.

  18. How poignantly beautiful, Naomi! It is only through opening our hearts to the sorrows, the wounds and the vulnerability can we truly heal and forgive…and it’s by sharing the story of our wounds and the healing that we are able to help others begin to heal. Thank you.
    xoTerri

    • Dear Terri, how well you articulated that! Thank you so much for your insight, and for taking the time to share it. I always love to hear from you. xoxo nb

  19. I love the photos and what you wrote, I’m sure wherever your father is, he is proud of you, you are right saying that it was a day for forgiveness; not everyone have such a clean heart to say so.

    BTW, I love the first sentence: “We are all survivors, of our personal histories, our family lines, and of the human race. “

  20. Dear Pablo, thank you for your very sweet, very thoughtful comments.

  21. Absolutely beautiful, Naomi.

    It’s heartbreaking that we (the U.S. in particular) seem to have entered an era of perpetual war, despite what political party is in power.

    Heavy sigh.

    • It is very disheartening, but I keep hoping…

  22. The last last floods me with hope: “. . . today is a day to love.”

    And so we shall. Thank you.

    ~ C

    • Thank you, Cara.

      • Oops . . . what I get for taking on a comment after less tan 15 minutes awake: “The last *line” floods me with hope.”

        Have a beautiful, typo-free day. ;-)

        ~ Cara

      • I hadn’t even noticed. Our brain fills in the gaps for us, which is a good thing, because I am having more and more of them! And thanks again for sharing your sweet thoughts.

      • Oh, that’s wonderful! For a writer, there is little less rankling than typos. I stare at them all day, correcting the, so that when they infiltrate my comments, I just want to scream a little, eh? LOL.

        That is true about filling in the gaps. I have seen those emails passed around, with numerals in the place of letters, and how the brain is able to discern what is there, even with missing or corrupted words. Incredible thing, a brain . . .

        Cheers to brain gaps!

  23. Thanks for making me cry – what a beautiful piece of writing. We used to plant memorial trees in front of my childhod home – I drove by a couple of years ago to find that they had chopped down my brother. I know it meant nothing to the new owners, but it really disturbed me.

  24. Oh, I am so sorry for your loss. I just tell myself that the tree is no more permanent than the life it commemorates. The story is the thing that will last, as long as you tell it. And I tell mine for every soldier cut down before his time, and for every spirit that comes home broken, so that maybe people will think twice about sending a soldier off to fight, or have more compassionate for the vets who come home damaged.

    Thank you so much for sharing your story, and for your really sweet comments.

  25. I almost couldn’t find the comment block there were so many comments! LOL. Great post, Naomi. :)

    • Thank you for stopping by, Susan. I really appreciate the visit.

  26. This is so heartfelt, Naomi…beautiful. My father-in-law also stormed Normandy Beach. He survived that battle, but the one in his mind did not end until his death in 1981. Not until then was he was finally at peace. My gratitude to your father for serving and enduring more than I can ever know. ♥

    • Oh, Paula, I thank you for sharing your story. I learned from attending my uncle’s reunion that the men might come home alive, but they never crawl out from under the burden of what they have seen, and what they have done–what we have asked them to do for us. I am grateful for your father-in-law’s service, and the sacrifice he made, not just for his country, but for the world.

      • ♥ I am sad for my hubby too, who never really knew his “true” father ~ so many sacrifices…. thanks for your sweet words ♥

  27. What a beautiful interpretation of today! A day to love and also to celebrate the legacy of those who sacrificed their tomorrows for us. Thank you so much for the reminder Naomi.

    • Thank you, Madhu. That is so true, and so well said!

  28. Photos are ideal reminders of the day and the paradox that comes from celebrating and mourning at the same time, which the day challenges us to do.

  29. Dear Sabrina, the longer I know you, the more respect I have for your wordsmithing. You have hit the nail on the head once again. I appreciate your sharing your thoughtful and articulate comments.

  30. Naomi,
    A beautiful and touching piece…Thank you. I just read that in the first 6 months of this year, more U.S. military personnel committed suicide than died in combat. Talk about your casualties of war and the war machine. Blesings to you and your good family.

    • Hi Tom, thanks so much for your thoughtful comments. I knew that the suicide rates for the military were bad, but I didn’t know they were that bad. So sad. Wishing you and your family al the best.

  31. Sorry to hear about you Uncle Lewis. He is a hero and all the men and women who fought for their country and their people. I don’t believe in war and its effects but I believe in the people who risks their lives for it. War is never fair and it only cause pain and traumatic memories. I agree when you said, ” But no one ever takes into account the broken hearts and broken families left by the wayside in the wake of war. ” The last part was even more inspiring, “But today is a day a of forgiveness, a day of understanding, a day to be thankful that life goes on. It is a day of sorrow, but most of all, today is a day to love.” Thanks for sharing a generous post today.

    • Thank you for your kind words. I appreciate your taking the time to share your thoughts.

  32. You express so beautifully that it’s important to find some hope amid all the tragedy. I’m so sorry that your father had to carry the burden of the war long after it was supposed to be over. I hope he is at peace now, and am so happy that you are finding your way through.

    • Hi Naomi. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. My mom always used to tell us to look for the bright spots–maybe the brightest spot of all is that my father finally found the peace that eluded him. As for me, I am twice blessed. Once because I am, and twice because I know it. Thank you again for your kind words.

  33. Naomi, I think one of you comments got caught in spam and I noticed it too late to save it. Looked like you sent me a link to something. I’m sorry …

    • Hi Jamie, I’m not sure what link I would have sent, except one of friendship and heartfelt appreciation for your very fine writing.

  34. I just read this amazing novel – ‘The Collaborator’ by Margaret Leroy (I think it’s called the ‘Soldier’s Wife’ in a later edition). It’s all about the occupation of Guernsey and this woman’s romance with a German captain. At the same time, she’s secretly feeding a starving prisoner from one of the camps. It’s an amazing story about her struggle to survive the war, feed and cloth her children, and care for her ailing mother-in-law etc.

    Thanks for sharing your moving family story :-)

    • Thank you, Sarah. Have you read The Guernsey Literary and Potato Peel Pie Society? It is about the Nazi occupation there, and is a really good book.

      • What a brilliant book title. I must look that one out. Thanks for the recommendation.

      • Hi Sarah, you will love this book! It is sweet and funny, a little bit sad, but also very inspiring and it is a very fast read. There are a couple of titles that I watch out for in used book stores. This is one. Another one is The English Passengers by Matthew Kneale.

      • Yet another for my reading list. This is very exciting.

        My mother has just given me Ann Widdecombe’s World War II novel ‘An Act of Treachery’ to read. It seems pretty promising from the first couple of chapters. Ann is an amazing character – probably the only Conservative member of parliament I’ve ever liked. She is a truly ethical, intelligent, and fun-loving person, so I’m sure I’m going to love her writing.

      • There’s nothing like the delicious anticipation when you crack open a book and know right away you are going to enjoy it. Have fun.

  35. beautiful shots… I love the post too. ;-)

  36. Wonderful post. Too many wonderful people are lost in wars, those that die on the front, and others that die all but physically. So sad.

    • So true. Thank you for stopping by, and taking the time to comment.

  37. Thought-provoking and emotion-evoking post. Makes me think of what mark we think we leave on the world and what mark actually remains long after us. :)

    • Thank you, Kourtney. I do sometimes think of that, too.

  38. “The day before he died, while his kids ran and laughed and played in the yard, my father planted a walnut tree—just a stick of a sapling–by the side of the house. Did he know what he was going to do? Did he plant that tree as his own memorial?…”

  39. [...] tomorrow, as we light our candles yet again, we will be thinking of my father, Harry Baltuck,  and Remembering Uncle [...]

  40. Reblogged this on Writing Between the Lines and commented:

    Dear friends,
    June 6th is the anniversary of D-Day, the Norman Invasion, that was a turning point in World War II, and in many lives. It is a day to remember. Some of you read this story one year ago today, but most of you have not. I hope that you will be encouraged to tell your own stories.

  41. Beautiful. War has such an ugly cost and I’m with you, why do we keep sending kids off to fight?

    • Thank you for your thoughtful comment. I agree with you–but it seems to be a lesson we need to learn over and over again–or perhaps we never learn it at all.

  42. “But no one ever takes into account the broken hearts and broken families…” WWII made a deep scar in our modern history…

    • Dear Amy,
      That’s the truth. I can still hardly believe that could have happened in such recent history.

  43. I loved this post the first time around and I love it even more now. Thank you Naomi. More and more I am embodying the knowing that we are all here to love, and that forgiveness (of self as well as others) is paramount for that love to flow unimpeded. The more we expand the field of Love and Forgiveness, the more it takes the breathe out of the wanting of war….

    I can see you father and his brother and their mother reunited in that unconditional love right now….and how it surrounds you and the rest of your family. What a gift you are to the world with your storytelling.

    xoTerri

    • Dear Terri,
      What a really beautiful message. Thank you so much for your truly thoughtful and generous response. I know your world is a better place, as you spread and model love and forgiveness.
      With love,
      Naomi

  44. Wonderful to remember again. War destroys the dead as well as the so-called living, allowed to return home.

    • Dear Tess,
      That is too true. I think we need to take much better care of our veterans. They can come home without a scratch, but can be deeply wounded from all that they have seen.

  45. War is never a high point for any society is it? My D-Day post is about a hero (fictionalized but real). I hate to think where we would be today without those heros who were willing to make a sacrifice (for us)

    • I strongly suspect that today’s wars in the Middle East have been arranged for the benefit of big business.

      But there is no doubt in my mind that World War II had to be fought, and that the soldiers who sacrificed their innocence, their sanity, and their lives saved the world. Thank you so much for your visit. I look forward to learning more about your book and your writing.

  46. D-Day just had to be won; the alternative was unthinkable. It’s hard to forgive those that caused so much horror, death and heartache. Are we entitled to forgive on behalf of those who died? I guess the answer is yes – love will always overcome hate.

    • Dear Roy,
      You are right. There was no possible alternative to winning that war. You pose a question that had never occurred to me. “Are we entitled to forgive on behalf of those who died?” I like your answer. Hate begets hate. Like the cycle of abuse spiraling downward from generation to generation in wounded families. Someone has to put a stop to it, or it will go on forever.

  47. Yes, we are survivors, thanks to many who fought our battles.

    • Dear Patti,
      Yes, we are here, thanks to those who fought those battles at such a great price.

  48. This is a very poignant post, Naomi. My great uncles also fought in WWII and were never the same when they returned. I have a beautiful picture on my wall of a little blonde-haired boy standing in front of a log fence – this is my great uncle Robert who died in Changi POW camp and I treasure the picture and his memory (even though we never met). The walnut tree may be gone but the memory of your father will never die.

    • Dear Dianne,
      Thank you, thank you for sharing your uncle’s story. No one comes back from war whole, whether they bear their scars on the outside or within. I’m so sorry for the loss of your Uncle Robert. We need to keep telling their stories. There is an African folk tale that says no one is truly dead as long as we remember them, and tell their stories.

  49. Naomi, I remember this beautiful post from last year. D-Day was a huge, momentous day. I found myself sick that this year, for the first time, I saw no accounts in the news. A sad statement, if you ask me. I hope that your dad found peace when he reunited with his brother.

    • Dear Elyse,
      The WWII vets are dying. It makes me so sad. I made friends with six army buddies from my uncle’s division when I attended the 60th anniversary of Old Hickory Division, was it eight years ago? Only one is still living. I don’t want their sacrifice to be forgotten. Paul Fussell says in his powerful book about World War II, (The Boys’ Crusade), that we can’t afford to forget the horror of war, or we will keep sending our boys off to fight for no good reason.

      Thank for your kind words about my dad and his brother. I hope they found each other too.

  50. A beautiful post – I agree, they don’t account for all the ripples that reach far and wide…and deep…

    • Thank you for your visit, and for taking the time to share your thoughts.

  51. You wrote: “We are all survivors, of our personal histories, our family lines, and of the human race. ” I never quite thought of my life like that–awesome responsibility when looked at like this…life is a gift…just this line alone makes me appreciate more!
    Regarding war: Benjamin Franklin said it well:”There never was a good war or a bad peace”…sometimes war seems necessary–as in the case of WWII–stopping Hitler——but, mostly, I think war is horrible and WHY can’t we find a way to live with one another in peace? If we put as much effort into peace, we would not need war. But easier said than done…I know it is difficult for me to just find peace within myself…but I keep trying each day.

    • Thank you for your thoughtful and thought-provoking response. I love the Franklin quote–so true! I do believe that WWII had to be fought. But most wars could be avoided, and so many of them are completely unnecessary, fought for economic reasons, and false pretenses, with a thin veneer of patriotic rationalization slapped on to justify sending all those other mothers’ children off to fight and die.
      Thank you for your visit–it has been a pleasure meeting you!

  52. […] years my father wrote to Jeanne, and translated Jeanne’s letters for my Grandma Rose.  After his death in 1965, the women lost touch, and the story might’ve ended there, but for a box in Johan’s […]


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