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.
All images and words copyright Naomi Baltuck.