Memorial Day. Being born Canadian I didn't always realize what US Memorial Day was all about. Honestly, I didn't think about it. When I finally "grew up" I realized that Remembrance Day in Canada is the closest equivalent.....sometimes it takes me longer than most.....
Often associated with the start of summer, Memorial Day conjures up visions of back yard BBQ's, baseball games, cherry pie....all the good old American things.
But Memorial Day is about remembrance. Remembering those who paid the ultimate price. Because of them we can eat cherry pie and go to church and pray and worship and say what we want when we want.... even if it might be offensive.... and we can work in any business we want....even a cosmetic business......and...and...and.....all because we're free.
In 1950 Philip served in the Korean War. He wasn't drafted, but rather he joined the Army and became a Master Sergeant. Stories emerged from hilarious to sobering. He had never ever been colder in all his life! His boots would freeze into the ground during meal time. He was also amazed at the Korean women. If pregnant, they would quickly have their babies and get right back out into the rice field. He was always amazed at resilience....because he was so resilient.
Phil seemed fearless. Hard work? No problem. A shoplifter running down the street? No worries. Lung cancer? That's OK. Only one time did he admit to being afraid. Upon arriving in Korea he drove straight through a fire fight. Then he was petrified.
He was born in August of 1929 just two short months before Black Tuesday, the dreadful day when the stock market crashed and the Great Depression went full tilt! This shaped him. He never thew anything away and always ate everything on his plate.
Never afraid of hard work, Phil worked a paper route when he was a kid, delivered groceries on his bike, worked in a sawmill with his Dad. farmed for a while - cows and watermelon. He owned a gas station, a hardware store and a moveable home business. He drove a tow truck, worked on the assembly line for Buick, sold vacuum cleaners door to door in California (a desperation attempt to make enough money to get home!), managed many retail stores all across the south, built homes, invested in rental property, sold used cars and was a respected deacon in the church.
He met and married the love of his life after only 10 weeks! They raised two boys together and even though they moved around for a few years early on, eventually he settled down and raised their family.
I met Phil in 1985. His strong southern drawl was a challenge for me to understand. I would simply smile and nod at anything he said, sometimes embarrassing myself by nodding at the wrong time. But Phil and I always got along I felt he and I had a special bond....when you meet someone like Phil you always think you're the special one. We would talk and laugh - well, he would talk and I would laugh. Phil always had a way with words.
And just so you know, Phil is my father in law.
He's almost 89 now and suffers with Alzheimer's. He lives in an Assisted living home in the Alzheimer's and Dementia unit. He is content there but can't remember where he's from. When we visit he often tells us he wishes he had a family.......he also wishes he had a wife....although his wife visits him at least 4 times a week.
Talking to Phil is different now. "Do you remember when....?" "No", would be his reply. "That's OK,", I would say, "you loved to have cars rebuilt and then sell them!" "Oh really?" he would answer with a crooked little smile. This is normal conversation now with Phil. Bittersweet.
He lights up when he sees me or any of the family. He may not know our names or how we fit into his life but he always knows we're important to him. The other day I was told by one of Phil's care-givers that he was looking for me. He found my photo and said he needed to get where I was. He didn't know where that was, but he wanted to be there....with me. That made me feel pretty special.
Phil is why we left Texas and moved to Louisiana 3 years and 9 months ago.
So even though Memorial Day is past and we have 364 days left till the next one, thank the Lord for those who served alongside Phil that never made it home like he did to live a very full life.
Many families haven't had the privilege of a "Phil" to call their husband, their dad, their grandpa or their father in law. Many men and women haven't had the chance to work on a Buick assembly line or chase shoplifters or raise godly children because they died alongside Phil before they got that chance. Their families are still paying dearly for that sacrifice.
Remember them, thank the Lord for them and thank the Lord for our freedom. Phil would want it that way.