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CJ Heck

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In Honor of Life
By CJ Heck
Wednesday, May 18, 2011

Rated "G" by the Author.

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For Memorial Day 2011

A Short Story
by CJ Heck

It was yet another Memorial Day and, as she did every year, Sharon Cleary drove to Eternity Acres Cemetery with three of the prettiest spring bouquets she could find. She took very seriously what she called, "My private, personal time to grieve for those I've lost to war." For Sharon, this was her way to honor them and to show how much she cared.

One bouquet was always for Great-Grampa Mack "PJ" Mullerton, who died in a bunker during the first world war. Another bouquet was for Uncle Theo Tarns, who was killed when his bomber was shot down in the second war. She had never met Uncle Theo, but she was still fiercely proud of him and, as with great-grampa, forever indebted to him for his service. The last bouquet of flowers was always the most difficult for her. This bouquet, she always made sure, was the largest and most colorful of the three. This bouquet had to be special. It was for Daddy.

Sharon was only six when she hugged Steven Cleary's neck tightly for the very last time at the airport in Stewartsville. She remembered crying and pleading with him to stay. "Please, Daddy, please. Don't go. I will miss you and so will Mommy. Please stay with us. We need you." She knew her father had been just as sad to leave them. She saw the tears he wiped from his eyes when he hugged her and then turned to hug and kiss her mother.

Steven had been killed in action in Vietnam, a decorated soldier, and a hero. Her mother, Sarah Cleary-Buddig, had eventually framed his medals and they hung on the wall beside his picture above the fireplace. Sharon remembered, oh, how she remembered, what a sorrowful time that had been, after the family learned he had been killed. But as sad as she had felt, she had never felt so completely, so utterly, helpless as she did, hearing her mother sobbing into her pillow at night and not knowing how to comfort her.

Sharon had been so lost in thought that she nearly missed her uncle's grave. She had to turn and walk back two rows and she chided herself for not paying more attention. She finished her prayers and was done talking to Uncle Theo, and now it was time to find Daddy. Her heart always felt like it was in her throat as she walked the steep path to the upper section where Daddy rested in the Cleary family plot.

Just as she was nearly at the top, she saw an elderly woman bending over one of the older headstones on the left. Sharon stopped, hoping that the woman wasn't about to topple over. She watched in silence as the woman tucked a letter tenderly under a vase of roses on the flat marble headstone and adjusted the small American flag. As she stood upright, she suddenly turned and their eyes met. Sharon was stunned. She could almost feel the woman's thoughts through the look on her face and what she saw in her eyes. Then just as quickly, the moment was gone and the woman had turned away.

How amazing, Sharon thought, as she watched the woman walk slowly back down the path towards the entrance gate. The woman was crying -- I could see her tears, Sharon thought -- but she had the most beautiful smile on her face at the same time. Sharon felt compelled to go over to the headstone and read the letter the woman had tucked under the vase.

"To my husband, my lover, my friend:
I will always love you.
I hope you like the roses.
All my love forever,
Your Maeve"

Sharon read the short note and, now crying herself, the words filled her with a beautiful new awareness. She could almost see the wheels of time churning, turning the days and months to years, until suddenly, you realize that it's been a whole lifetime a loved one has been gone. And then one day, it's like a bucket with a hole, you see the sands of grief sifting slowly through, and instead of mourning their death, you begin to celebrate everything they meant to you in life.

Sharon closed her eyes and, as she replaced the letter in its home under the vase of roses, she quietly thanked the elderly woman. Then she placed the third, and prettiest, bouquet on the monument for Daddy. And as Sharon thanked Steven Adam Cleary once more for being her father, she remembered all of the love and the good times they did have together. This time when Sharon cried, she could also smile -- and the tears were tears of joy.

       Web Site: Barking Spiders Poetry for Children

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Reviewed by Karen Lynn Vidra, The Texas Tornado 5/18/2011
Heart touching write, CJ; well penned! God bless those who fought for our nation and those who continue TO fight! Proud daughter of/sister of (two -- twin sister and our only brother == )/cousin of/niece of Veterans (ALL branches)!

(((HUGS))) and much love, your friend in Texas, Karen Lynn. :D
Reviewed by J Howard 5/18/2011
remembrance comes in many packages, hers in flowers, and maybe... in the sensitivity of others. so nicely i have come to expect.
thank you for loving family and honoring freedom-
Reviewed by H. Lena Jones 5/18/2011
A touching write, C.J.! Huummmm! We, who are left behind, feel the loss of a loved one deeply. Then, ever so often, we are able to smile through the pain when loving memories come flooding back. It matters not how we have lost our loved ones...for the grief is the same. Thank you for this meaningful write.

Love and Hugs,

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