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Selecting Funeral Clergy or Eulogist

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So you’ve basically completed your own funeral plan. You’ve taken out a funeral insurance policy to cover the funeral costs and funeral expenses that your estate is likely to incur, you’ve selected an obituary writer and drawn up an outline of what you want covered, and you’ve even addressed other funeral needs. But now you are faced with a problem. You are not sure about the funeral clergy requirement and what you want said.

Maybe you’ve had a bad experience at a particular church or maybe you even doubt the existence of a Higher Being. Perhaps you’ve been to a funeral where you thought the comments were not inclusive or they contradicted your point of view. Or maybe it means you have personal decisions about your faith and beliefs that need to be made. Whatever the reason, determining who will officiate at your funeral is important since it will determine how your life is presented to your loved ones and friends as a means of remembrance. Clearing the air, thinking through your thoughts and reaching an answer not only makes it easier for you to finalize your plans, it can also open your eyes and dramatically change your life.

Uncertainty is a common problem for many today. With the nuclear family and the constant relocation of household units during a life’s career, it is more difficult than ever before. Back in the old days, when many Americans grew up and lived their lives within a small geographic area, it was not uncommon for a family to attend the same church with a limited number of different ministers throughout their life. Today, the changes in life have also brought with them the likelihood of attendance at many different churches, often of different denomination or doctrine, and it can be difficult to decide what specific clergyman or woman matches up with you and your beliefs. And if you are not a church goer or are unsure of your beliefs, you need to think very carefully about what you want said at your final ceremony ending life. It can be very confusing and even troubling.

From my personal viewpoint it is sad that there are so many of us today who don’t have a strong basis for our own lives based upon faith in a loving God, a God who gives us hope for the future through His love and grace. But if we don’t, and since our decisions are based upon our free will, shouldn’t we at least ponder the possibility? It doesn’t cost anything and while for some of us it will make no difference, for others it could totally change the direction of your life. It’s never too late for that.

For those of you who are unsure and questioning about your beliefs, I am providing a series of questions about faith which I hope will be helpful to you in really knowing who you are. It will also help you decide whether or not you want a funeral clergyman or just an official with no religious significance. Even if you think you are set in your way, it can do no harm to consider these questions for, remember, the answers are entirely up to you and only you will know what you think about them unless you desire to share the information.

1. Do you believe in God as the Creator of all Life? If so is your belief Christian, Jewish, other? These questions are designed to determine what your actual religious beliefs entail from the perspective of a Creator. It should start you thinking about your place in the Creation.

2. Do you believe in the tenets of the Holy Bible or some other religious doctrinal foundation? Here we begin to explore the documentation with which your beliefs were developed and what they mean to you. This is your foundation for what you believe.

3. Do you believe in Heaven and Hell? If so, what do you see as the differentiation between the two and do you believe in Life after Death? The questions of the purpose of life enter here and the resultant consequences for the way you live your life. You have free will but you must understand that the decisions you make will impact you directly, be it good or bad.

4. If no to the above, do you have a different context of a religion or do you have no religious beliefs? Here those who have another concept of religion will have the opportunity to focus on what really provides meaning in their life. If the resultant finding is a void it will open them up to deep self- scrutiny. Sometimes we can find that we are truly searching for meaning and haven’t found it yet.

5. Do you want a religious ceremony? If not, do you want a secular ceremony with a memorial presentation of your life? Eulogies by family and/or friends? This will clearly separate those who want the religious connotations foremost in their final rites or not. The impact of the family is considered here because the funeral actually benefits the living that are in attendance and, because of this, it may change the way you look at your presentation to others. Example, your wife is very religious yet you aren’t. What kind of conflict does this create and do you accept that or you may even want to change things.

6. Do you have an idea of who you want to officiate or, if not, do you know if qualified persons are available near your location? You may want an officiant, or religious official or clergy, which requires specific religious qualifications or someone instead to officiate which can be anyone you desire.

7. If you are a non-believer, what kind of official do you want and what kind of background do you want presented? This question, after the buildup in prior questions, begs the cold, hard option of non-belief. You may very well find that by this point in the questionnaire your feelings of non-belief have disappeared and you find yourself to be a believer, just uncertain of your specific beliefs. Introspection frequently does this.

8. What part does your family play in this decision? Again, as alluded to earlier, most people want their family to be proud of them and if your non-religious option causes heartache and sadness from those you love, you may want to look inward and address the cause.

9. Are you still considering where you really stand on your beliefs and do you need help and guidance in addressing your needs? If you are now in turmoil because of the earlier questions, that is a healthy sign that you really aren’t sure where you stand. As long as you are alive it is never too late to open your heart and soul to love. As for help; there are many good people available who will help you find yourself and your place.

10. Finally, what kind of image of yourself do you want to project to be remembered by? Bingo, the image you want to reflect, once you fully realize what it is, is what you truly want to be. And that’s the purpose of the questionnaire, to help you identify the truth about yourself.

I hope that those of you who took time to address the questions have learned something about yourself. I used it myself long ago and it really got me thinking about what I want to leave behind as my personal legacy to those I love. The questions forced me to look at myself openly and honestly in evaluating my beliefs and, in my case, they made me a better Christian. While I thought I knew the answers before I began, I found that my desire for having a funeral clergy of my Christian faith, one in tune with my individual views of many differing alternatives became clearly important. Whatever your particular faith, I hope it might have a similar result for you and, for those who either don’t acknowledge a God of love and grace or have doubts about Him, I hope this might open your heart. There’s a wonderful life ahead for all of us and it need not be limited to our life on earth.

Have a wonderful week and God bless you all.

James Dick

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book page: www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark portrays my family life with animals living with and near me at my farm in North Florida. Animals are truly a gift from a most gracious Father above.

 

Baby Boomers Look for Individuality in Final Rites Of Passage

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Recently while surfing the net I read an article by Martha White, a writer for NBCNews.com, in which she discusses how baby boomers are looking for ingenuous ways to present their personality through their final arrangements. Even in death, they want to show who they were and what they enjoyed after they are gone.

Being a boomer myself, it made me sit back and think about my own life experiences as well. I’ve been blessed to have a full life with lots of great memories. Even though I expect to have many good years left ahead, it made me ask myself the question: How do I want to be remembered and what would best represent me? After all, when I’m called from this world to be with my Savior, the most important things I will leave behind are the memories of my life for my loved ones. Material things are just earthly “stuff”, meaningless in God’s big picture of things, but the memories of how we lived our lives is our real legacy,

Some boomers want to create special effects to help leave that lasting mark. As an example, take the sports enthusiast. For the football fan, an urn with the colors and logo of their favorite team might be the ticket while the NASCAR fan could have an elaborate car model urn with the number of a favorite driver. In the case of a traditional burial, perhaps a special engraving on the casket or favorite colors for the casket liner could be used. Depending on local requirements, a special etching on the tombstone might be another possibility, thereby leaving a lasting impression to be seen by anyone visiting the grave site. Using imagination, anything is possible.
Whatever the choice, those left behind are the ones who will experience the ceremony. The addition of special touches planned by the decedent while still alive will certainly add a personal touch. Its memory will grow even more significant with time, when special and unique images stay vivid long after others have faded away.
In my life’s circumstance, with the love of horses that I acquired from my wife, I want things to be very simple and efficient but also unique. I have decided to be cremated with my ashes placed in a special urn. It will be emblazoned with a dark stallion on one side and the American flag with Infantry crossed rifles beneath it on the other. It will proudly recognize both my love of horses and my love of country and the Army which I proudly served as an active duty officer.

While this will eliminate the hurry to conduct a funeral, it will allow those in my family to gather and remember my life after the initial impact is over. The event should be a celebration, not a sad and grief-stricken moment. I would like it to take place in the comfort of my home and I hope there is laughter and good cheer. I see the end of this life as the beginning of a joyous eternal one.

On that day, my ashes will be spread across the pasture where our horses spend most of their time. Once completed, a special bronze plaque will be affixed to the barn near the entry flagpole which is lighted and proudly displays Old Glory 24/7. Now here’s the kicker, the plaque will contain the following statement: “James Dick’s ashes are in the pasture. May the horses run with him in death as they did while alive. RIP.” The words might change, but you get the idea and I think it will make people smile and laugh. Laughter is a great remedy for sorrow.
Why did I offer this personal example? I use it to clearly point out that each of us boomers is an individual with unique life experiences worthy of being shared. We want to be able to vividly express them, and creativity at the end of life is a wonderful way to do so.

What does this mean to the funeral services industry going forward? It means that professionals in the field must be forward looking and able to think out of the box. No longer will their customers just accept the standard offerings of services and continue to pay top dollar for them. This new trend is still in its infancy, but it will certainly grow. We boomers usually get what we want and are rather demanding about it.
The boomer market is a financial force to be reckoned with as well. This category of Americans, born between 1946 and 1964, began reaching retirement age in 2011 and the numbers will significantly ramp up quickly. It makes up over one quarter of the population and as its age progresses, the need for final memorial products and services meeting their demands will also increase. With nearly two and one half million Americans dying each year and related spending approaching twenty billion dollars, it is easy to see their importance.

Meeting the demands of this trend is where an organization like SharedSorrows.com can really be of assistance. This fine online professional group is not a funeral home trying to sell you a pre-packaged program based upon what provides the best profit margin and within their limited operational parameters. Quite the contrary, Shared Sorrows assists you with tools to develop and implement your own plan and provide you with cost effective and efficient ways and vendors to do so. In this way, you can make the plan you want and have it ready to go when it is needed. You can keep your money earning and compounding while knowing that when your days are done, those left behind will know exactly what to do.

God bless all of you and enjoy the rest of your life, boomers. God expects us to enjoy this precious gift He has given us. Live it to the fullest.

Written by: James Dick, Hawthorne, Florida

 

It’s Never Too Late to Plan

This week we will look at a couple who have had fun, enjoyed life and yet they have not prepared for the future.  A turn of events in life brings them to the realization that their life style needs adjusting and they must think ahead.  Meet the Andersons, Samantha and Bill.

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Samantha and Bill truly loved life and everything in it.  They worked hard and played hard and just never concerned themselves with tomorrow.  The most popular couple in their upper middle class neighborhood, they were the life of every party and were always at the top of the invitation list. And they also liked to throw parties, inviting guests to evening cookouts and swimming at their tropically themed home in Central Florida.  Their happy go lucky nature was infectious and Bill could make a crowd laugh for hours.

Unfortunately, things at home weren’t nearly so much fun as they seemed to others.  Oh, they loved and were devoted to each other but they had never planned for life and were “living on borrowed time” as far as their finances were concerned.  Bill and Sam both worked and had good jobs; Bill was a construction superintendent and Sam was a successful real estate broker, yet they never saved money or planned for a rainy day.

As if this wasn’t bad enough, they had not completed an estate plan, had no will and they had not saved sufficiently for the future.  Funeral planning was out of the question and no evaluation of funeral costs and funeral expenses had been performed, nor had any funeral plans even been contemplated.   The two of them were a disaster waiting to happen should fate rear its ugly head.

Sam was a shopaholic, always picking up unneeded things while Bill was always planning short, yet expensive vacations that they could ill afford.  And, of course, their entertainment expenses were high.  But while Bill acted unconcerned outwardly, he had deep seated fears inside about what the future for his family might be.  His two children were grown and reasonably self-sufficient and Bill also worried that they had developed the same lifestyle habits that they learned from him when they lived at home.

Despite his nagging concerns, life went on in its usual fashion until tragedy struck in Bill’s family.  His older brother, Jack, a good and wise man was killed in a serious car accident.  Upon notification, Bill and Sam hurriedly got ready and were off on the eight hour drive to the old homestead.

Jack bought his parent’s home from their estate when they died and the extended family gathered there for most holidays.  Special birthdays, Christmas, and usually at least one long weekend in the summer brought these two brothers together with their families for fun and frolic, but Bill was always a little bit jealous of his big brother for having the finances to buy the place.  He always loved returning to the family homestead, however, and he was glad it had stayed in the family yet he knew it would never be the same again with Jack gone.

Arriving late in the afternoon, the house was ablaze with lights and a number of cars were parked out front indicating that friends were giving their condolences.  As they walked to the door, nephew Paul came and greeted them with a hug although there were tears in his eyes. He and his dad were extremely close.

Sister-in-law Jean excused herself from her visitors and came to the door, hugging them both.  She was holding up well and she dearly loved Bill and Sam.

“You know the drill, Bill,” she said. “Put your things in your guest room, wash up if you want and then come down and meet some of our friends. We can talk privately when everyone is gone.”

After freshening up, Bill and Sam came down to visit.  They knew some of the visitors and all reminisced about Jack and what a good man he was.  When the visitors left and the extended family was together, Jean asked them to come in the den. She had something she wanted to show them.

“Jack told me many times that he wanted you at my side in carrying out his wishes, Bill”, she offered.  “Here is his funeral plan and I’d like you to review it with me.  Sam, you’re welcome to participate if you wish.”

Sam just sat nearby listening while Jean went over things with Bill.  He was absolutely amazed at the detail of the plan.  Jack had prepared in advance a complete funeral plan, starting with the estimate of likely funeral costs and funeral expenses and the source of the funds to pay for his final rites.  The body already was on hold at the cremation services facility and would be cremated after Bill had the opportunity for a viewing.  The funeral would be in two days and Paul had served as the obituary writer since he was a literary agent.

“I’m really lucky, Bill”, Jean said.  “Jack had his estate plan in order with his attorney and probate will be easy.  I am fortunate that I will be able to live comfortably although it won’t be the same without him”.

Bill hugged her as tears began to flow, and Sam also patted her on the back.  Then, after she sighed, she told Bill that Jack had left a special envelope for him. She went to get it.

Returning with an impressive box and an envelope, he knew what it was.  The box contained his father’s coin collection and a gold ring he had received from his father when he was a little boy. Jean said that Jack wanted him to have it as he knew in his heart that Jack wished he had the family house.

Jack sobbed and didn’t know what to say.  After all, Jack didn’t have to show such generosity.  It was a very valuable assortment and the ring was also appraised at great value, but the sentimental value was priceless.  Jack had received it as was customary in families where the father was born in the Old Country, in this case Scotland.

The funeral went well and after a four day visit, Bill and Sam headed home.  While driving, Bill poured out his heart about how they needed to change their lifestyle.

“Sam, we have to learn from Jack and Jean,” he said.  “We’re in our late forties and we have to start saving money and stop living above our means.  I don’t want something to happen to me and leave you with a mess.”

“You’re right, Honey,” Sam replied. “I want to live a long time with you and I don’t want us to end up in our old age in poverty.  Let’s talk to John next door; he’s a great financial planner. Let’s make a plan and stick to it.”

When they got home, they went to work to solve their problem.  John helped them analyze their situation and offered suggestions for how to change their lifestyle and make up for lost time.  It was difficult at first, but once they got into the groove, they were surprised at how easy it was.  And for the first time in months, Bill’s nagging concerns were gone. He felt better than he had in years.

And every night when they turned in for bed, he said his prayers and he thanked God for using the tragedy of his big brother’s death to wake him up.  He promised to stay on course for the rest of his life.

“And Lord”, he asked. “Please take care of my big brother until I see him again.  And tell him I love him.”  Then he smiled as he drifted off to sleep.

James Dick

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book page: www.honeyweshouldaboughttheark.com

Author of Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark, a 2014 best read selection of American Pet Magazine

 

Happy Birthday, America

On this day two hundred and thirty eight years ago, a band of brave patriots published a document which would have huge impact the world over.  Representatives of the Thirteen Colonies met in Philadelphia to approve The Declaration of Independence, severing their subservient relationship with the British Crown and with its publication a struggle for freedom of David and Goliath proportions began.

Despite all of the patriotic fervor and anger with King George for treating his subjects like serfs, there were still many in this land who did not want to battle the British.  There were multiple reasons for this: fear, loyalty to the homeland, and financial arrangements among others, but the minority who led the cause for freedom eventually secured a sufficient number of colonists to man the Continental Army.  And it didn’t hurt that they eventually had George Washington of Virginia to lead the fledgling nation in battle, a man of vision and honor who realized that it was his destiny from God to lead this original band of brothers.

Things didn’t go well at first with some loyalists providing the British with information on leaders of the rebellion.  This resulted in horrific retribution against these men and their families for their actions.  A good example of this was the group of patriots who followed Francis Marion, the Swamp Fox, so named because he would strike swiftly and then retreat into the dense South Carolina swamps where the English were fearful to follow.  These patriots suffered horribly as many of their family members were brutally massacred, some burned alive, and all family possessions and property stolen, sacked or destroyed.

And, of course, we all know that the open battlefield skirmishes were dismal and bloody failures for the Americans at first, bringing Washington and his often threadbare troops within a whisker of total defeat.  Finally the crossing of the Delaware with Washington’s surprise assault on Trenton was a brilliant success and shock waves reverberated all the way to London.   This kept his Army in the war and, following a long and bloody struggle, it was on to Yorktown and the surrender of Lord Cornwallis in October 1781.  American folklore says that the British band struck up the British song, “The World Turned Upside Down” although that can’t be fully authenticated.

The United States really didn’t have a settled government structure until 1789 since much give and take was needed between the large and small states and the Northern and Southern factions in order to gain agreement.  The in-between Articles of Confederation allowed for the nation to stay together although there were difficulties.  It wasn’t an easy thing to set up a government that was both free and democratic while maintaining protections for the minority as well.  The checks and balances were designed to insure that America truly would be a land where an elected body, not a king or a despot, would control the ship of state subject to the voting choices of the citizenry.

Following those founding days, the United States grew into the greatest nation on earth and has been looked to by freedom seeking people everywhere as a beacon of hope and inspiration.  But, as Alexis de Tocqueville said so elegantly in his masterpiece, Democracy in America, something seems to have gone wrong in recent years.  The willpower, determination, and dedication to hard work is lost today in so many of us, often caused by soft living and the belief in promises made by self-serving politicians who are more interested in retaining their power than in securing the future of the country.  As that great French writer surmised, when a population in a democratic environment gets to the point where those who have not realize they can vote themselves a pay raise at the cost of those who have, trouble begins.  This seems to be where we are headed unless we as a society come alive with a new rendition of the Spirit of 1776.

We Americans must look at the wonder of what our Founders did for us, designing a system which, with God’s help, has been a model for all to see.  And the haves worked hard with the sweat of their brow to gain those things they have and they are also generous with their riches with those who are needy when the government leaves them free to produce and grow.  That is what those without need to strive for, not from a handout, but a hand up which will propel them also to success and wealth.  That is the Spirit of 1776 which combines the Holy Spirit and the American Spirit with a level of energy and perseverance which cannot be denied.  It worked before and it will work again as well.

So I hope that all Americans on this Independence Day will take the time to look at the courage and brilliant but difficult work of our Founders and redouble our own efforts to do our part to push onward and upward for liberty.  Individualism, freedom and capitalism, when combined in a fair and honest way is the only way we will regain our footing and with God’s help we can do so.  Government is never the source of production, it is merely a user of some of the fruits of productive labor and if it focuses on those requirements which were called for in the Constitution, most importantly national security, while expunging so much of the waste and abuse, the richness and bountiful goods and services which this country can produce will once again lead us to renewed prominence.

Thank God for this land that we love and let us use this glorious day, a day when we remember our great heritage and purpose, to reenergize ourselves as Americans, including liberals, moderates and conservatives to bind ourselves together for the most valiant cause of them all: freedom under God.

Happy Birthday, America.

James Dick

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book site: www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

Author of Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark, a true story of life with a wide array of animals in God’s glorious rural America

 

Tips for Combatting Family Loneliness

We’ve seen over the last few weeks how living alone can be difficult.  It is seldom, however, that we think of someone who lives with a family as being alone, yet today people can be very alone although surrounded by many loved ones.  In this type of situation the day-to-day distractions of busy lifestyles can divert the family unit from really maintaining the social interface and connection so needed by humans who are truly meant to live as part of a social unit.

Sadly, this kind of loneliness within a family household is quite common and real.  We ignore it and, over time, the disconnection exacerbates itself and becomes a major family problem.  In this, our last discussion of loneliness, I will try to provide some tips to help preclude this situation so that we might reinstate the joy of family living that is meant to be.

So what do I mean by a family which lives under the same roof being disconnected?  Well, here are just a few examples.  In the past the extended family often made things cohesive, but today with the nuclear family we have lost the sense of interconnectedness of family which the large extended family brought.  Both parents working is another issue, with many children today spending extended periods of time without proper parental guidance and oversight.  Often their family connections become secondary to their friends and associations from school while the parents become more and more absorbed with their work.  This also impacts the closeness of the two parents, driving them apart as well. And finally, the interjection of technology with cell and I-phones, computers and all of their social media components, and even television, constantly pulls us away from spending time with each other.

Perhaps answering a few questions can help us to determine if we have a family issue of this type and, if so, what we can do to undo the damage and strengthen our relationships. I’ve provided some suggestions which might help us get started but each family unit is unique and therefore has its own special needs, so these questions and answers are just a point from which to start.  Let’s give it a try.

Does your family have regular group meals where you share the events that are going on in your lives?  Family meals are an important way to gather together, providing a pleasant place to communicate with one another regularly.  It is easy to get out of the habit with busy and varied schedules, but when a family eats together they share a quality time to spend in fellowship in a relaxed manner.  It’s a good time to discuss school, work, fun things and current events as well.  A family that routinely shares a daily meal will be more likely to truly know one another and be sharing and loving.

Do you allow your life to be driven by the cell phone?  Everyone these days seems to have a cell phone and, in many cases, this includes all members of the family regardless of the age.  It can be quite helpful to have certain periods when the cell phones are turned off, such as the dinner hour and homework period as well as at special family gatherings or events. This is helpful in focusing the family on what is important, such as conversing with one another or focusing on school work.  Too often we find family members cutting others off to answer that important phone call which often really isn’t very important, at least not when it forms a barrier to good family relations as well as general good manners.  Set up a plan and see how it works.

Even when you share time together,  is it often confined to watching television with limited conversation?  Nobody can question that the television can be quite entertaining and a limited amount of viewing, particularly if it is screened for content, is reasonable.  The problem is that it can be habit forming with the result growing to endless hours of watching the medium.  Television is a passive learning tool which means most is forgotten and it can be a detriment to good communications within the family.  To combat this, try watching a special movie and then discussing it during commercials and after the show ends.  And find good family friendly shows to watch that are of benefit to all, not the psychobabble of mindless sitcoms which really aren’t funny at all and are forgotten as soon as they are done.

Do you worship together and share your religious convictions and moral code?  Putting a focus on God or, if you don’t believe in the God of the Bible, another higher authority which teaches good morals and good living.  Reflect on this with the family and reinforce it in your life.  As your children see your example they will want to mimic you.  Regardless of what you think you know about them, they do want to emulate you and be proud of you.  That is a very strong factor working in your favor.

Do you talk with your children about school and review their work?  Take time to review homework with each child and discuss their day.  Try to positively reinforce their experience and work with them jointly to solve issues that are troubling them.  Again, they want your involvement and it pays big dividends as they develop a high degree of respect for you.

What do you know about their friends? Get to know their friends by first name and allow them to visit in your home.  Any problems you have with their friends need to be discussed privately with your children and monitored.  If handled delicately, you might even turn what you think is a problem into a great asset.  This can often happen through the positive influence that your child can offer as well as the positive image that your family creates in that child’s mind.  Perhaps he or she is from a family filled with strife or a broken home and your influence can be quite rewarding.

What do they know about your earlier life and departed family as well as your job and how you spend your day?  Your children want to know what you do and they want to encourage you in your business life. After all, parents are their lifeline and if they feel safe and secure they do better.  But they also need to understand the trials and tribulations they will face in the adult working world as it will help them prepare for their future.  You don’t need to share all of the “gritty” details but share your experiences with them.

Are you and your spouse so wrapped up in the children that you really don’t even know each other anymore?  Last, but certainly not least, it is important for the parents, husband and wife, to nurture their relationship as a couple and not just as a family.  Schedule “date night” periodically or otherwise make sure that you get quality time together away from the kids.  If you have friends in a similar situation, you might consider trade off weekends which will afford you to get a short but private time on a weekend trip without the kids.  It will recharge your batteries, reinforce your love for each other and the kids will probably enjoy the short break themselves.

These are just a few ideas and there are limitless possibilities for more, but the point is to focus on your family situation, identify issues found and develop a plan of attack to turn a negative into a positive.  If you do this, you will find your internal family relationships will be a joy instead of a chore and, as you get older, the empty nest syndrome won’t be nearly as lonely.  A good and vibrant relationship now will build a lasting relationship later which you will look forward to.

I hope this has been helpful and I wish you all luck in this endeavor. Until next time, God bless you all.

James Dick

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book page: www.outskirtspress.com/honeweshouldaboughttheark or

www.amazon.com/author/jamesdick

 

God Be With America’s 9/11 Force

Writer’s note: For the last several weeks we’ve been talking about loneliness, a problem which is growing in America due to the nuclear family and lack of personal contact caused by a much more technologically advanced society.  Unfortunately, many prefer to use the telephone or email/social media instead of face to face contact and in so doing we lose some of our sociability. I had planned to write a finale to the ongoing discussion today, but have opted to delay for one week to address a subject which has suddenly come to the forefront.  The title of the blog gives you a clue.  I hope you will join me in praying for these wonderful young folks, our United States Marines, who are again thrust into the middle of a dangerous situation with no easy answers.

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Over the last few days we have watched with alarm the rapid disintegration of the social order in Iraq.  And while I don’t want to put blame on anyone in particular, it is certainly clear that our disengagement from Iraq in 2011 was a major mistake.  What is transpiring in that beleaguered country is just what most of our military experts predicted, so now we are faced with a major dilemma:  What do we do now?

With approximately five thousand personnel in the Green Zone, including State Department personnel and approximately one hundred fifty Marines and Army soldiers still in country, plus an undisclosed number of civilian contractors surrounded by terrorists, it is imperative that we take necessary action to protect them and bring those home that are not required for security reasons to remain. The United States Embassy in Baghdad remains operational and most of southern Iraq is still in friendly hands.  Trying to fend off the complete capitulation of a democratic Iraq is necessary to avoid a complete setback in the Middle East which will leave Israel totally isolated.

If Iraq totally falls and the withdrawal of Afghanistan continues unabated, a wide swath of territory from Damascus to Tehran to Kabul will be under the wing of the Mullahs who support terror and Sharia.  The base of operations will be capable of organizing terror operations of a huge scale worldwide, shielded totally from interference by the sheer magnitude of wilderness that they will control.  More 9/11s will be a certainty, not a possibility, and without America’s leadership we’ve seen in recent history the horrors that result.

So far, the only answer from the United States has been a last minute decision by the President to send two hundred and seventy-five Marines to Baghdad to secure the Embassy.  This small but brave contingent of America’s 9/11 force is right now the only unit stopping the complete destruction of the gains that America made over the last decade with a huge loss of life, high levels of pain and often  lifelong disability and the loss of expensive equipment and material.

We don’t know what other steps the Obama Administration plans to initiate but we know that several Navy vessels, including the aircraft carrier USS George H.W. Bush and the Amphibious Transport Dock Ship Mesa Verde have moved into position in the Persian Gulf.  It would seem that precision missile or fighter strikes might give the Iraqi’s time to regroup and redeploy but we certainly don’t want America embroiled in a religious war which the Sunni-Shia conflict is likely to become.

But of immediate and critical importance to each of us is making sure that our brave combatants over there be given every supply item, other support, and combat weaponry necessary to conduct their mission without undue risk.  Never again do we want to see Americans in a situation like the case in Benghazi where brave men fought for their lives expecting reinforcements to assist them who never came.  Regardless of the cause, it was a shameful moment in our glorious history when we failed to bring our boys home.

Let us together pray that our wonderful combatants in such a far distant and hostile place as today’s Baghdad are successful in protecting the Embassy and its personnel and that none return home in a body bag. We don’t need any more funeral honor guards and flag-draped caskets at military funerals.  America has had enough of the death of our finest. Let’s bring them home alive and well so that we can cheer them and celebrate them as the heroes that they are.

Dear Lord:   Thank you for giving us your love and grace and for the gift of these young and valiant soldiers, sailors, airmen and Marines who willingly give of themselves and risk their lives for us.  Be with them, guide them and protect them and keep them alive with your Spirit and love so that they might safely return home to their loved ones.  And be with their families who are worried about them and miss them terribly and give them peace.  And help mankind to find a way to solve problems and disagreement peacefully and with love instead of hate and hostility.  We ask in the name of the One who died for us, Jesus Christ, so that we might have the opportunity for everlasting life, Amen.

God bless America and God bless each and every one of you.  May peace infect your heart and guide your actions and may our young warriors be granted a life of peace and joy when the battle is done.

James Dick

Hawthorne, Florida

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book page: www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

 

 

Would It Be a Lonely Father’s Day?

John Hardy was an elderly man and lately he was feeling more lonely and sad than he could remember since his wife died six years ago.  With his three children busy with families of their own and scattered across the country, he knew that they had little time for him these days and he remembered that he had been the same way himself as a young man. 

Oh, he loved his dad, just like he knew his children loved him, but it still made him feel sad and lonely not seeing them very often.  All he had left were the memories of his family when they were all together and, sadly, regrets for neglecting his father in his later years.

In good health, John had developed a daily routine which is what kept him going. He got up early, went for a brisk walk, fixed himself breakfast and then visited the cemetery.  He went every day and sat on a bench next to the gravesite of his beloved Rebecca, who had been his one and only for thirty-five years before her death. Upon his return, he worked on his roses, beautiful bushes that had been started by his wife and which reminded him so much of her.

Once a week he would play a round of golf with a fellow retiree, his good neighbor Robert, who was lucky to still have his wife at his side.  Robert always complained about his wife and her lengthy “honey do” list but John reminded him routinely of his good fortune to have her still with him as a partner in his life.  The two duffers always wagered a small amount or a lunch on their game and enjoyed their camaraderie.

The other thing important in his life was his church and he made it a habit to never miss Sunday services.  He knew that it wouldn’t be too many years before he would leave this world and he wanted to be sure he would be joining Rebecca, a woman who had always been devout in her belief in the Savior.  He served as an usher and also taught an adult Bible school class for his age group.  Golf, his roses and his church were the things that kept him going.

Coming home from church on one particular Sunday, he thought about the minister’s remarks about fatherhood and realized that it was Father’s Day.  He had forgotten about it since normally he received a card the day prior from each of his children and a phone call, but this year they must have forgotten and that added to his sadness.

After eating a sandwich with a glass of good Southern sweet iced tea, he opted for a nap.  He was tired and it was oppressively hot outside so he thought that some rest might make him feel better. He drifted off quickly and dreamed that same wonderful dream he experienced so many times before: Sunday afternoon at the lake with his wife and children when they were small those many years ago

***

Knock, knock!  John was startled out of his sleep by the noise but it took him a moment to realize that he wasn’t dreaming.  It was at the front door and it was persistent.  Rubbing his eyes and then tucking in his shirt, he walked toward the door.  There was a large black stretch Lincoln limo parked in the drive and, looking through the window beside the door he saw his three children, their spouses and four of his grandchildren.  He was amazed at how big they were.

He opened the door to find John, Jr. smiling broadly as he said, “Well, Dad, it’s about time you opened the door.  We thought we came all this way for nothing.”

Gaining his composure he hugged his oldest, then his other two boys, Tim and Frank, their spouses and the four youngsters.

He ushered everyone in and seated them in the living room, then the three ladies said they wanted to freshen up. So here was John, suddenly rejuvenated, bright and cheerful with the appearance of those he most loved in the world today right there in front of him.

Tim spoke next saying, “We just decided to surprise you, Dad, that’s why you didn’t hear from us. Your buddy Robert told us you would be here.  He knows your schedule like a book.”

Next, Frank broke in, adding, “We linked up in Chicago and flew the final leg together.  How do you like that limo we rented; get ready, we’re taking you out to dinner and then we’ll come back here and celebrate your big day.”

John was overwhelmed and started tearing up saying, “I almost thought you boys had forgotten me. This is the best surprise of my life.”

They spent a few moments getting acquainted after a long separation and then everyone got ready to go out.  Much to the delight of John, the boys had made reservations for dinner at Luigi’s, a local landmark and Rebecca’s favorite, the place where John took her for any special occasion.  It had a wonderful old world ambiance with original Italian and continental cuisine just like it was when the original Luigi opened the restaurant.  It was now in its third generation of Luigi as owner and operator.

Dinner was wonderful, they took their time laughing and remembering the old days and enjoyed a fine bottle of red wine for the occasion.  Luigi had obviously made special arrangements for them as the table was extraordinary with the beautiful fresh cut flowers and the finest linen and silverware.

Before leaving, Luigi came out with a beautiful Italian cream cake and a gallon of hand packed, homemade Pistachio ice cream packed in dry ice.  He told them to take it home, let their stomachs settle a bit and they would then enjoy it more.  The three sons just smiled as they looked at their father’s face beaming.  It was worth the trip just for that moment alone.

Arriving back home, John, Jr., Tim and Frank exited the house briefly and when they returned they carried a huge package saying, “Go ahead, it’s your day.  Open it.”

John was all thumbs as he took the wrapping of a large oblong box.  Peering inside he grinned from ear to ear.  His family had bought him a new golf bag and a top of the line titanium driver.

Turning to them all, he laughed and said, “Robert better watch out on the golf course now.  This is bound to take some strokes off my game.”

Later, after they had talked and enjoyed the cake and ice cream, John was showing he was tired and the boys suggested they all turn in.  Asking if they needed to make any beds, John told them that the beds were all made and ready. By habit, he did that anytime a rare visitor departed.  It was at times like this that he was glad he had kept the big old house.

The following morning they enjoyed a family breakfast and then John’s family prepared to depart.  John was truly touched by the visit and he asked them not to be so scarce in the future.   Tim responded by asking if the whole family could plan a get together for Christmas week.  Each of the boys offered to host it but John suggested they come home.  He did, after all, have plenty of room and so it was set.

As they drove off in the limo after the whirlwind visit, John said a short prayer thanking his Lord for the good fortune he had to have such wonderful kids.  He promised to keep his loneliness under check and would look forward eagerly to the upcoming Christmas.

And then he thought to himself that now it’s time to pull out that driver and go to the driving range and try it out.  He chortled to himself as he realized that Robert wouldn’t even know what hit him on their next golf outing.

I wish a Happy Father’s Day to all of you out there and I hope Sunday is special to you in all ways.  God bless.

James Dick

www.northfloridawriter.com

www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

Author of Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark, a 2014 Selection as a Best Read of the Year by American Pet Magazine

 

The Impact of Loneliness

I recently read an enlightening article in the American Spectator which discussed the problems caused by loneliness in America today.  A National Science Foundation General Social Survey conducted by sociologists from Duke and the University of Arizona found that living alone is a lifestyle for about sixteen percent of the population, a three-fold increase in the last fifty years. If you also take into consideration the impact of single parent families, latch key children, and the limited interface between family members in a busy world, the impact of loneliness on the human psyche is much more prevalent. Since we humans are naturally social animals, the lack of sufficient time with others on a regular basis can result in a feeling of isolation which may result in higher levels of depression and the debilitation of social skills.

It’s a problem that we need to face because at some point many of us may be faced with life in this situation.  It can be caused by death or divorce or be a voluntary response to rapidly changing life conditions with the nuclear family and an increasing reliance on technology as a replacement for social interface.  But whatever the cause, it is with us and it has been with us for a long time.

In deciding how best to approach this subject, it suddenly hit me that this Friday is the anniversary of D Day in Europe, an event which caused widespread loneliness for many as their primary loved ones were overseas fighting wars both on the European continent and in the Pacific.  While many came home months later, some never returned.  In remembrance of D Day and the horrors of Normandy which our brave soldiers faced, this is a good time to remember the loneliness faced by so many loved ones waiting and worrying back home.  There is no better way to understand it than through a story.  I hope it makes you think about the nature of loneliness and the importance for us to live life to the fullest with full social interaction.  After all, God made us to be with people.

______________________________________________________________________________

It was late afternoon and Myrna was exhausted. Dedicated to her work, she knew it was important to finish turning the documents on her desk into smooth, final typed copy before leaving.  Lonely and in her early twenties, her life revolved around her work in the typing pool and her church.  She never thought life at this stage would be like this.  At the end of the day, she had no one waiting at home.

A small framed pretty woman with a perfect complexion, beautiful dark eyes and long brown locks, she eschewed make-up other than lipstick and always wore her hair up in a bun under a hat when outside.  Even when the hat was removed, Myrna never let her hair down except when she was home and alone.  She didn’t want to be noticed; she just wanted to do a good job while maintaining a distance from her co-workers.  She became more open with a few friends she trusted at church, but even then she was reserved and quiet.  She was pleasant, but also sad and those around her sensed that.  She rarely showed her sweet smile.  Of course, many young women were sad in those days due to loved ones being away at war, but Myrna never indicated that she had any close loved ones.  She seemed as if she had always been alone.

Myrna worked for the War Department in the casualty support unit.  Her job consisted of getting combat death announcements in final form before next of kin were notified.  She took her job seriously and was routinely cited for her excellent and error-free work.  She just figured it was the least she could do and nobody in her office knew just how much she took each notice to heart. 

Myrna had a big secret that she shared with no one, not even her pastor.  When her boyfriend enlisted the prior year, two days after Pearl Harbor, the two had quickly eloped and married.  They did so in a town fifty miles away where the only record was in the neighboring county courthouse.  Since her parents were gone and she had no siblings no one had any reason to suspect she was married.  She married her Paul so that he would know that she was committed to him and would wait for him while he was at war.  She kept her secret so that she wouldn’t worry anyone else.

Except for the night after their civil ceremony and on the weekend before he was sent overseas, she had not spent any intimate time with him.  And now, with him off in the South Pacific where the war was going poorly, she lived in constant dread that one of those documents crossing her desk for typing would be one with his name on it.  Despite her feelings of dread, she never showed any emotion to others even though she was crying inside.

That evening on her way home from work she remembered it was Wednesday and it was the one day other than Sunday when her church had a short prayer service and social gathering.  She decided to stop by as it was only a couple of blocks from her apartment and the stop where she caught the bus. 

The church was well lit and cheery as she entered and immediately walked down the stairs to the social hall.  Pastor Millwood saw her and gave her a big hug saying, “We’re glad you came, Myrna.  You just seem so sad and maybe some time with God’s people will cheer you up.”

She thanked him for his thoughts, said hello to a few friends, and then all were seated for the prayer session.  Each was asked to say a silent prayer and then afterwards they could share their thoughts if they desired. 

Then Pastor Millwood would wrap it up with a grand finale.  He had such a gift with words and was so upbeat always; it helped everyone in this mostly ladies audience, many of whom had loved ones in harm’s way.

Myrna closed her eyes and prayed a very simple prayer saying, “Lord, Thank you for the love and devotion that you give to me.  Be with my Paul and keep him safe.  Let him know how much I love him and care for him. And give me the strength to remain strong and carry on as he would want me to do.  Keep my heart focused on the Spirit and away from all forms of evil.  Amen.”

Myrna chose to keep her thoughts to herself, enjoyed a cup of soup and some delicious homemade bread and said her goodbyes.  At least she wouldn’t have to prepare any dinner when she got home.  She hated eating alone.

As she entered her small apartment, she turned on the radio for the news and got ready for bed.  She sat up long enough to hear the latest from the Pacific front and about the fighting on the islands.  She shook slightly as she thought of Paul on a faraway island which was possessed by fear and hate.  She prayed that he would survive physically intact and without any lasting psychological scars.

As she crawled into bed and turned off the lights and the radio she looked at the ceiling and again softly asked God to please keep Paul safe and return him to her. Then she cried herself to sleep, knowing that life had to go on.

In sleep she finally found peace as she dreamed of sitting on a beautiful beach and enjoying Paul’s company. Oh, if only her dream could last forever so that her loneliness would be gone.  That would bring her the joy and happiness that her life was missing.

When she awoke and faced the reality of another day, she readied herself for work.  She knew that her faith, hope, and her love for Paul and her God would have to keep her going and a new daily cycle was underway.

 

I hope that this little story effectively portrayed how this young woman, who desperately wanted a life of happiness and joy with the man she loved, sank into isolationism and hidden despair through no fault of her own.  It was a situation faced by many who had their life directly impacted by war and it was beyond her control to influence.  The only thing left she had to sustain her was her faith and her prayers.

And now in modern day America there are so many more factors which sadly can cause an enforced loneliness in lifestyle.  Our modern, anything goes morays often lead to divorce which breaks up more and more families.  For others, the desire to actually build a family is given up, choosing to live a lifestyle without commitment and family ties.  The advent of the nuclear family has also taken away much of the life enriching value of the close multi-generational family, with no commitments or responsibility for one another.  And finally, the advent of the internet, social media, and such technology as I-phones has killed off much of the needed social interactions that we need in a personal setting.  “Talking” on-line is much different than the closeness of actual human interpersonal contact.  In short, we find ourselves alone more often without even realizing it.

So is there anything we can do or anyone who can help us recover our good social health?  Yes, there is.  We can turn to God and use our faith to help us.  God is the one who can keep us from being alone no matter where we find ourselves and by listening to His word and following His guidance we can restructure ourselves to bring our social selves more alive in all that we say and do.  To truly live our lives as He intends, it is something that we need to do, for He expects us to live in a community of others to carry out his mission for us.

God bless each of you, and please take the time to analyze your own experience and see where or if something is lacking.  If you are alone and become aware of its adverse impact, get some help and turn life around.  Life with people in it, people you care for and love, makes living so much better. It’s never too late to change.  And never forget those brave souls who gave the ultimate sacrifice so that we might live free.

 

Written by:

James Dick

Hawthorne, Florida

www.northfloridawriter.com

www.amazon.com/author/jamesdick

www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

 

Things Can Change Quickly

In making a funeral plan, we generally consider funeral costs, determining whether burial or cremation services will be used, obituary writer and funeral clergy selection, and whether or not we need funeral insurance or some other funeral fund to help defray the costs which today can be quite high.  Finally, we also must review our probate and estate plan to insure that our loved ones can live reasonably well after we are gone.

The one thing we never think of when making plans, however, is the death of a child.  We always assume that our children will outlive us and generally that is a correct assumption.  But as we all well know, life doesn’t always work out the way we plan and death never takes a holiday.

Sadly, the warm weather which is here now and the activity of young people who naturally think they are immune from harm can combine to create a disastrous situation.  With school letting out and summer almost upon us, now is a good time to talk with your children, be they five or eighteen, about their need to act responsibly and safely in the many fun activities which summer brings.

Following is a true story which involves an acquaintance of my son while celebrating graduation from high school.  The names and location are changed to protect the privacy of the living relatives of the deceased and to respect his memory and peace.  I tell it not to frighten anyone but to make real for others the need to realize just how fleeting the gift of life can.  And since God has given us free will and with it the ability to make choices, poor choices can sometimes result in bad things happening to otherwise good people.

______________________________________________________________________________

Johnny was excited.  He was graduating from high school soon and was looking forward to going away to college in September.  He had a good summer job with a local hardware store and enjoyed helping the many customers who came by daily for needed supplies.  But he really looked forward to his free time in the summer since, living in a coastal town, fun in the sun at the beach or on the water was what he and his buddies would be enjoying.

Swimming, waterskiing and fishing were all in the game plan and, of course, whenever they were near the water there were also plenty of pretty girls.  Boys will be boys, but unfortunately they often do stupid things around pretty girls to hopefully impress them or at least gain their attention.  This would prove to be a big mistake for Johnny, one we’ll learn about shortly.

The final week of school went by and graduation was held outdoors at the school’s football stadium.  It was a great occasion and Johnny and his friends immediately left for the beach home of his best friend, Tom.  Tom’s father was well to do and had a beautiful beach home on the ocean about an hour’s drive from the school.  It was within walking distance of a marina, several nice restaurants and the shops and teen hangouts that are always found in beach towns.  A group of four of them had been invited to spend the weekend and relax and enjoy themselves.  Tom’s mom and dad would be in and out, but they trusted these boys they had known since they were children and it was a very close knit group.  Besides, they were warned that the party would abruptly end if any intemperate behavior was involved.

A considerable number of their friends were also spending the weekend at the beach and they made arrangements to meet after dinner the next night at the Rec Center, a group of businesses in a small shopping center beside the beach that catered to the weekend and vacationing set.  It included a fishing pier, ice skating rink, bowling alley and games center, a dance floor catering to teens and numerous eating establishments and shops. 

Linking up in the parking lot, they decided to check out the fishing pier and see if anything was biting.  They had brought their tackle with them and were dying to try their luck.  Besides, it was a beautiful moonlit night, and from the pier the moon shimmered in the water and looking back to shore the twinkling lights up and down the coast were clearly visible beneath the starry sky.

The girls who joined them really weren’t very keen on the fishing idea, so the boys promised if they didn’t have any luck within two hours they would take them dancing.  The girls smiled and were appeased and relented in their complaints.  After all, if they wanted to have a girls’ night out they would have been better off back home.

After an hour or so the boys were growing impatient.  They had only caught two fish and neither were “keepers”.  And this is when things went awry, for the boys started bragging about who could walk the railing from shore to the end and back the fastest.  Johnny’s friend, Tom went first and completed the circuit quickly with no problems. One of the other boys was next and then it was Johnny’s turn.

The railing was four feet high and it was eighteen feet above the water and while wide enough to navigate for someone with good balance, an occasional larger wave coming in would cause the pier to sway a small degree, enough to affect concentration.  Johnny took a deep breath, climbed up and gained his balance and composure and turned seaward.  Heading down the railing he looked strong and confident.  No one could tell he was nervous but he wasn’t about to “chicken out”.

As he made the turn at the end to return to complete his walk, one of the girls yelled that a big swell was coming.  As Johnny looked back and saw the six footer approach, large for an otherwise calm night, he began to lose balance and the passing wave delivered the finishing touch.  Johnny plunged the eighteen feet into the water and didn’t immediately surface.

Tom ran to the point where he fell, looked down, saw nothing and dove in to search for his friend.  It was pitch black in the water below the pier and Tom dove under several times, coming up empty handed and gasping for air before he finally found Johnny.  His body was limp and his head was at a funny tilt.  Using every ounce of strength that he had, he managed to swim with his lifeless friend toward shore, using the incoming waves to push him along.

Finally reaching the beach, he pulled Johnny out of the water and set him down in the damp sand.  One of the girls ran to the rec center to get help while Tom, a certified life guard with experience in CPR, worked on Johnny trying to get him to breathe.  His valiant attempts were unsuccessful and all he could do was wait helplessly for the rescue squad to arrive.

The arriving medic checked Johnny’s pulse and found none, and he noticed the angle of his head which indicated that his neck was broken.  There was nothing anyone could do.  Johnny’s unbalanced fall had resulted in his hitting the water at a bad angle, resulting in his immediate death.

Tom was devastated and blamed himself.  If only he hadn’t thought up the stupid challenge, everything would have been okay and Johnny would still be alive.  It took him the entire summer to return to any semblance of normalcy, despite Johnny’s parents telling him they knew it wasn’t his fault.  They knew the boys were subject to free will and, in this instance, they had made a bad decision and Johnny and Tom both paid the price. Johnny was dead and Tom would have to live with the memory of a horrible accident at a time when they both should have been enjoying their graduation celebration and a wonderful summer.

Death is unfortunately a fate that we all must face and we never know when it will come for each of us.  And I don’t tell this story to show the necessity of having a funeral plan made for someone in advance as young as Johnny, for even the best prepared of us is not likely to plan in advance for this type of occurrence.  But it is important for us to make arrangements much greater than a funeral plan for all of our loved ones, young and old, and it takes their buy in and their acceptance.

The plan I am talking about is one that can only come through individual faith. Having faith in God through His Son, who died for us, is the only way we can truly plan for our future.  For our ultimate future is not in this world, but rather an eternal one involving our life everlasting with the Father.  Teach your children wisely so that they have a plan in place whenever that fateful ending to life happens.  It is the only way to truly live.

God bless you all and have a safe and happy summer, but always put Him first. Your life depends on it.

James Dick

Hawthorne, Florida

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book page: www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark or

www.amazon.com/author/jamesdick

 

Memorial Day 2014: Remember the Fallen

At the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month of the year of Our Lord 1918, the guns fell silent in France.  A truce signifying the end of the “War to End All Wars” brought with it an uneasy, yet peaceful serenity to the thousands of soldiers, Allied Forces and Germans, who hadn’t had quiet in their lives in years.  Tragically, life for the 116,000 dead Americans was ended in their early prime.

While it took a considerable period of time for the Articles of Peace to be formulated, the end result was good for soldiers but ultimately tragic for the world.  The proud German people were basically held responsible for all aspects of the war and treated accordingly.  And with the upcoming economic disaster known as the Great Depression, the world created the very seed for a much more expanded and even more bitter contest to unfold in a mere twenty years.

With the exception of the Civil War, where Americans fought against their own brothers and cousins, World War II by far had the highest death total, over 400,000.  And this number does not include those who were lost and never found in the swamps of Guadalcanal or in the snows of Bastogne.  Almost every family in America was touched by the tragedy of this war on two fronts and it was one that all hoped would never be repeated.

Sadly, since that time America has been involved in many conflicts, the most noteworthy being Vietnam (over 58,000 deaths), Korea (over 36,000), Iraq (4800) and Afghanistan (almost 3400 and still growing) plus a large number of smaller conflicts which also resulted in death.  Despite all of the death, and the heretofore unmentioned large number of maimed and wounded who survived and suffered through these conflicts, we today once again find the world filled with hatred and animosity and the prospect of further conflict ever present in our minds.

So I would urge every American to honor those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for each of us and our fellow countrymen, for as long as man lives on this earth there will be conflicts for which we must maintain a standing force of brave men and women ready and willing to answer the call of duty.

What can you do to honor our dead?  Visit a military cemetery, participate in a Memorial Day service or event, fly your flag proudly, and thank those who have sacrificed for us.  Each of us has a neighbor or friend who has sacrificed their time and in many cases their physical well- being for our freedom and they deserve our sincere gratitude and respect. Don’t forget to tell them.

And there is one other thing we need to do.  We need to pray to our Lord for the care of those who have suffered, for their families and for the souls of those departed. Won’t you join me in prayer?

Dear Lord:  We thank you for always being available to talk with you and seek your guidance through prayer and we beseech you to help us find a way to end the pain and suffering that so many of our fine young men and women face due to never ending war.  Hatred, anger and bitterness, all of which are a waste of good energy and contrary to what you would have us do, is so prevalent today and we each must reach into our inner selves and, with the help of the Holy Spirit, find forgiveness and peace.

We know that you love those who died in support of their country and that war is not of your doing but just another of the sins that we mere mortals have created with the free will granted to us. But help us to be strong in searching within our conscience and ridding ourselves of the very traits that, on a societal level, allow for war to take place.

And please remember those living veterans who are suffering from war wounds, both physical and mental, and help our government officials to provide the care that they have been promised, not instead using their positions to further their own careers and fortune. Help them see the light and turn to you for the strength they need to listen to you and follow you in all that they do.

Finally, help our enemies to also find peace and tranquility and a willingness to come to solutions short of warfare, but help us to always be vigilant against those who do not seek peace honestly but instead use temporary periods of peace to plan for more and greater bloodshed.  Let us always stand strong and resolute against such action.

Lord keep all of our military safe, be with them in their good and bad times and enter their hearts and souls to guide them in the difficult tasks that they are called upon to do.  Be with them forever and with the rest of us as well.  We pray in your Holy name, Amen.

Never forget what our heroes have done for us and honor them always. Enjoy this special holiday with picnics and relaxation time with family and friends but always put those who did so much for us first in our hearts and minds on this day.  Happy Memorial Day 2014 to everyone and may Old Glory ever fly free as a symbol of what America truly means.

James Dick

Hawthorne, Florida

Website: www.northfloridawriter.com

Book page: www.amazon.com/author/jamesdick or

www.outskirtspress.com/honeyweshouldaboughttheark

Author: Honey, We Shoulda’ Bought the Ark