7-year-old Skip pins Lieutenant bars on big brother Harry after graduating from Officer Candidate School, earning his officer commission in 1967 at Ft. Benning, Georgia.
This past Monday was his funeral.
Leaving the cemetery after a beautiful military funeral (Harry was a Vietnam War veteran, a U.S. Army Captain) my sisters and I felt strange, with my parents leaving us 13 years ago, now it is just three of us to carry on.
In my sister’s elegy I learned some things I never knew about my brother, 16 years my elder.
All were even more things to be proud of and thankful for “our” big brother.
Harry wasn’t perfect, far from it. None of us is, of course.
Harry lived a challenging life, especially after returning from Vietnam, where he served just one tour of duty (which was more than enough for anyone to endure).
Harry did some things wish he did differently.
Sometimes he hurt us.
Sometimes confused us.
Sometimes he helped us.
Sometimes, in good ways, he surprised us.
Sounds like most families and siblings, right?
It took me ‘til the age of 40 to really to start to get to know him.
I’m so thankful for these last 15 years.
One thing I’m most proud of I learned from my one sister for the first time in our post funeral story telling about Harry.
As teenagers in the early 1960s, Harry, the oldest by two years, taught his two younger sisters that there was no difference between people of different skin color.
This was no small feat.
They all grew up in a household where our mother had significant negative opinions of other races, and a father who was ambivalent.
I learned Monday that Harry had a number of friends who were African-American and with no shame brought them into our home, to my mother’s dismay and disapproval.
Where Harry learned this, which what was not just racial tolerance, but racial embracing, we have no idea.
He just had it, and he taught it to his little sisters.
His little sisters passed it on their little brother, me.
So, although at holiday time it’s tough to mourn the loss of a family member, maybe Thanksgiving time is the best time to reflect on what we’re thankful for about those we’ve lost.
I know this year I will be.
So, as Harry once said to me a few years ago upon leaving a special dinner for a friend I invited him to, it’s time for me say, “goodbye, Love You, Bro!”
In honor of Harry, a Vietnam War hero, who in your life (living or passed) are you most thankful for, and why? What lesson(s) did they teach you that you can use this space to say “thanks?”
Please leave your comment below.
’til next time Communicate With Power!