Monday, May 28, 2012

Memorial Day Memories

On this Memorial Day, our family remembers especially the sacrifice of my father's cousin, Ralph Viscount, United States Navy, killed in action during the battle of Okinawa on April 22, 1945. He was directing fire of the No. 3 gun of the USS Isherwood, which was hit directly by a kamikaze. Attempting to shoot down the plane, he remained at his post till the end, and was posthumously awarded the Silver Star.

He was only twenty years old.

Ralph, may your soul, and the souls of all those who have died serving our country, through the mercy of God rest in peace.

My father still remembers the sorrow of his aunt, while her sisters held the telegram in their hands. It is difficult to imagine what this must be like. A young man, so full of life. Her son. We must not forget all the mothers who suffered too.

Throughout history, mothers have borne the cost of war. Indeed, a mother's pain hardly ends with the birth of her child. Her love endures always, and when she is called to make sacrifices she can reveal great depths of strength and courage.

I remember Ralph's mother very well, my great aunt Florie. By then, she had endured many other tragedies in her life, but I remember her as full of hospitality, and kind to her great nephews and nieces who loved to explore her big old house, with all of its mysterious closets and secret passages.

And there was always food. All the flavors of southern Italy that my father's family brought with them from the prior generation. Oh, the food....

When I published my first book, many years ago, my aunt Florie got a copy and read it. I received a beautiful letter from her expressing her appreciation, and also a sense of "pride" in my small achievement. I was surprised, and honored that she remembered me and cared about me in her very venerable old age. I thought I was just one of the rugrats who used to run around her house.

We may have to face trials and even tragedies in our time. I hope and pray that we will have the strength, the courage, and the magnanimity of our forebears.