Saying Goodbye

Is indeed hard to do.

I found out recently that all of the areas that I usually stay at, in Arizona, have had huge fires and they’ve been using fire retardant, that Red slurry, everywhere. If I was there right now, I would probably be in the hospital, or worse, because I have such bad reactions to fire retardant. So yes, the good Lord did want me in Kentucky, but I think now it was more a way of getting me out of Arizona for the summer.  

There are Things we have had to let go of.  Practical Things.  Charlie’s mattress, we have both lost a lot of clothes, my doormat.  Seems silly. Right? To be upset about Things?  The fact that my son did not have anything to sleep on was definitely a concern, but a doormat? Well, that was the first doormat I ever bought. I remember, I thought it was so cool that it was for my Little Gypsy.  There are practical Things that have memories attached. Some may seem silly to you, but my step from, Suzy, and my table from, Elizabeth, meant a lot to me.  That crazy step ladder that turned out to be such a great little work bench.  A couple in Winterhaven gave that to me.

Something about the combination of that mold and rust, was really bad.

 All three of those Things have been such a blessing, but the mold issue that sent us running back to the Camp on the Kentucky River Campgrounds, invaded our world, in hard and unexpected ways. Kentucky may be where I’m from, but it is not, home.  Some Things, like the ones I mentioned, are a little hard to let go of.  Some have caused such deep sorrow.  Things that both Charles and I have had for years, gone.  You can tell yourself they are just Things, but it’s the associated memories, that make them so hard to lose. Old photos, precious things from Charlie’s childhood.  Gone.

There was the fear of Things that might be lost. Incredibly important Things.  My trailer, Charlie’s truck. Our homes.  Both invaded by mold.  

You can see where mold was actually starting to grow in the canvas on my Little Gypsy. Bringing a little trailer that is made out of canvas, to an area where they have 46 inches of rain a year, was just not a smart thing to do. I just didn’t realize how much of a problem it was going to be.

But, by the Grace of the Lord, and an extraordinarily difficult time of cleaning, with Braggs vinegar and hydrogen peroxide, for months now, we believe they are safe.  We are praying it is so.  We have both been so grateful, for our little homes in special ways. Now? Even more so. 

There have been other goodbyes.   We sold Charlie’s trailer, so we could afford to get necessary repairs done on both our vehicles. We were even going to sale my sailboat, but another sailor stepped in to help. I am so blessed! After seeing what happened to my trailer? Charles has decided that a very old, well used, Casita, might be in his future.

Saying good bye to kin.  I got to see my mom, one brother, his wife, and all three of my sister’s, and most of their children. Charlie’s cousins. They came down to the campgrounds, to say, So Long, for now.  They did not know, and neither did I, that it may be Goodbye. At least until we meet again, in heaven, by and by.  

One sister asked, as she was leaving, if maybe in a few years, we might be able to come back. I guess that was the moment I started to realize, that we could not do this again.  Knowing what we have been through this last couple of months.  I won’t, I can’t, risk this kind of battle for my health again, and especially, for the health of my son.  In some ways, in many ways, I wish we had never come. Not just because of what we have lost, but because it got my hopes up. I thought, perhaps, I might be able to live in Kentucky, buy a piece of dirt, and get to know my brothers and sisters again. Saying goodbye to that dream, was tough. The reality, even if we could have stayed, would be so different. But I was hoping that, Charles, would be able to have family around. That he could get to know, The Cousins, and his aunts and uncles. That’s something he has never had. I have those memories. I was even able to reconnect with one of my dear cousins while I was there. I was hoping that we would be able to get to know them all over again. Yet.  I’m glad we came back, because it means that they’re in touch with my son, and even though its going to be a long distance, and likely sporadic, relationship, at least, Charles, knows he has relatives in abundance, in Kentucky. Who knows, maybe one of these days he might be able to visit his Dad’s relatives in Pennsylvania.

So we are saying goodbye to Kentucky, in fact we’ve been gone for a while now. One good thing? I have come to realize, through this latest adventure, that I already have a home. My beautiful Little Gypsy. 

After a lot of scrubbing, and a new paint job she really is beautiful again. 

She’s the best possible kind of home that I can have during these difficult times. Although I must tell you, it does not seem like difficult times right now. We are at an incredibly beautiful campgrounds, here in Tennessee. I’m going to be able to stay here for two weeks, right on the water front, for free!

Something so many people long to do. At times like this, I will agree with people and say that I am living the dream. These last few months has made that hard to believe, but this place is beautiful, quiet, and filled with peace.

So, although these last couple of months have been filled with hard times and goodbyes, tough decisions and painful places to stay, places that made us both so ill, there are incredible times of beauty and joy, as well.  I hold on to this kind of Joy, dearly, during those tough times.  Knowing that around the corner, or just down the road, the Lord will provide a place of incredible beauty. A place of rest. A place that brings such Joy!  Joy! Pouring out of me. I wish you could hear my voice, and see my face, and know that joy that is just ebbing up out of me! It is so good here.

 There was one more goodbye, that happened in Virginia, just a few days ago. Charlie and I, were able to get to Arlington, and see my husband’s headstone. Although our pastor and friend of many years, took some wonderful pictures for us, once the headstone was in place, we had not seen that in person yet.  There was something very warm and wonderful about being there. It felt like Mick, was really there with us. It is both wonderful, and very hard, how memories can fill your heart and mind. But while we were there, all of the hard memories slipped away, and all of the joy filled memories filled my heart. There were stories, about his Dad, that I told Charles while we were there, that Charlie had never heard before. 

Both Charlie and I were talking to that headstone as if Mick was actually there. 

Sharing those stories, talking about him, filled our hearts and minds with those wonderful memories about his Dad. It really did make it feel like, Mick, was there, listening, smiling, even chuckling.  As a follower of Christ, I believe that when someone dies, they rest in the Lord until the Lord comes back again. Then the dead in Christ will rise first. My husband knew the Lord. He told me, one of the last times I saw him, not to worry about him and the Lord, that they were okay.  So I know that someday, Charlie and I, will see, Mick, again. I know, going forward, that there will still be tears, that will catch me at unexpected times, but, thanks to a friend, I also now have this memory, this precious memory, of time with my son, at his dad’s graveside, that will help to ease the hurt, and the sorrow, of loss. 

They say that hindsight is 20/20, but I don’t believe that’s an accurate picture. I think that when we are in the middle of loss, or in the middle of greatness, we see things a certain way.  I think our vision is a bit blurred, at times, because we are too close to that moment.  After a little time passes, that way of seeing those events; great, small, hard, sad, happy, and even joyful, changes.  You start to see them maybe 50/40. Then, depending on the event, a few years later you can probably say that you’re seeing them about 30/30. But I think some time has to pass, before you can really look back and say I understand, and I see clearly now, why, that happened the way it did. 

I’ve heard it said that with every goodbye, there is a new hello. I can tell you one of the, Hello’s, has been such a blessing.  I am content with my little home. In fact I am very happy with my Little Gypsy, and this traveling life again. For a while I was focused on buying a piece of land, but I realize now, that that’s just not an option, and it’s okay, because it would be a burden, instead of a joy. My little home is a joy. A gift from the Lord. It’s something that I can take care of.  The good Lord has blessed us with wonderful mechanics, when we’ve needed them, and the means to get things fixed, wherever we’ve been, and I know that He will continue to provide the help we need as we cross the country. 

So it’s goodbye to owning land, and hello to Road Life with Little Gypsy! 🙂 

I don’t know where the Lord will take me next, but I know, I too, am in good hands.

We are heading for Arizona. Eventually. Lord willing.  Hopefully, before it gets too cold out here in the rest of the United States. I know it’ll take us a couple of months to get back there, and there are problems with me living there, but it’s the only place that I can spend the winter, while I’m living in Little Gypsy. Hopefully, some of the modifications that I have made, will make a difference. They are a little bizarre, I will admit, but I’ll tell you more about that, at some future date. I’m hoping that they will be enough to allow me to get rest in Arizona the way I used to.  

Take care for now, gentle reader, and remember, it is time, quality time, spent with those you love, that make the best memories!

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George “Mick” Leon Smith ~ Arlington National Cemetery

I didn’t take a single picture.  I brought my camera.  I even brought extra batteries.  I just could not take a single picture.  I am still not entirely sure why. A friend suggested that it could be because this trip was so grim.  I’ve thought about that.  Yes, my son and I were going to bury my husband and his father. But Grim? I don’t know that I looked at it that way.  My son and I were going to pay our final respects to Mick, in the best way we could.   Perhaps I knew instinctively that no photograph would ever be able to capture this journey.  I am not sure.  What I do know, is that this trip was as much for me, as it was for my husband.  I needed to know that I had done my best for him.  From things he has said and done, since Mick passed away, I believe my son felt the same way.  I did not even have a desire to write about this.  It seemed too personal.  Too hard to express in mere words.  Something that had to be experienced to be able to truly understand. But something happened that changed that.

I had been trying, all year, to find some one.  Anyone, who could come to the funeral to be there for my son and I.  We were traveling from Arizona and no one was going to be able to come to Washington D.C. with us.  I had called the Marine Corps, The Mickey Finn Group, even local Veteran centers to see if anyone could attend.  Everyone said they wished they could attend.  That they hoped it would go well.  That they were sorry for our loss. But no one was able to come. As it turns out, it was good no one could be there.  I realize now, it would have seemed like an intrusion. The people who were supposed to be there were able to come.  Pastor Walt and his friend, whose dad is buried at Arlington.  Mick’s daughter and her husband, who I am delighted to claim as family, and of course, Charles and I.

One of the Marines that had been trying so hard to find veterans who would be available to be there for my son and I, sent me an email a few hours after the funeral.  He had wanted to be there to support my son and I, since he too was a retired Marine who had been in Vietnam, but he was also unable to attend.  I received his email just after we got on the train to go home.

He said he hoped that it all went the way I wished it would.  He also mentioned that he had had a word with the Honor Guard that was going to be handling my husbands funeral.  Letting them know that my son and I were going to be there alone, and he wanted them to give us their very best.  He was writing me to make sure that they did okay. I remember thinking in disbelief, “Okay?” They were so far beyond ‘okay’. Below is what I wrote back to him. I wanted others to see this, out of gratitude.

Dear Mac,

They were the finest Honor Guard escort that I have ever seen. By far.

The burial detail. They were so precise, so measured, so careful. Each motion in its time and place, each performed with accuracy and grace. There was exquisite beauty in the exacting nature of their stately movements. The flag folded, with such attention to detail. Each fold and step given such care. I held it for hours after we left and it has not left my side yet. A case and a place of honor will be made for it at home.

The rifle detail. Standing, at attention, waiting, quietly waiting, to honor a fallen Marine. Fallen, but not forgotten.  It did not matter that he had not fallen in battle. Nor did it matter that he had retired from the Corps. What mattered is that he had served his country and served her well.
Semper Fidelis.

For the salute, they used the older rifles, that have that loud crack when they fire. The ones I hoped they would use. Again, precise, exact, together. In perfect timing. There was a comfort in that jolt, when they fired. Almost as though it was easing, or pulling out, the pain of our loss. Waiting as each volley rang out over the resting places of other military men and women. Then again, that crack, fired as one shot. You can hear it for miles.  That final volley. Twenty-one. The twenty-one gun salute of honor.

Taps. The bugler was excellent. Each note in perfect pitch. Full and rich in sound. Played slowly, solemn, as befitting the occasion but also with a feeling of pride. That last note held so long until it faded away. It reminded me of the words to that song. The sun fading from the sky, and yet, God is nigh.

The young marine in charge of the Honor Guard. The one who handed me the flag, was so touching in what he said, but moved me even more by the sincerity in his eyes when he thanked me for my husbands service. Then he surprised me with the shell casings. I had forgotten they were part of the ceremony.  I have given one to our son and one to Mick’s daughter, who I would gladly claim as my own. Something for them to hold onto, something to help them remember.

Pastor Walt.  He never ceases to amaze me.  He can capture exactly what needs to be said, but of course he is so in tune with the good Lord. I know that He was speaking through Pastor Walt today. The things that he said, the passage he read, they were exactly what I needed to hear. That while Mick did his best to be a good provider and protector, it is the Good Lord who does it right, every single time.

I will hold that service for my husband in a special place in my mind and my heart. I will remember and use it as a calming balm, when the pain of loss and regret tries, once again, to capture me.

I wish I could write or find some way to thank them all. To let them each know that the beauty touched my soul. That their care in doing it right, their dedication to duty, eased my pain. Perhaps I can send this to our cemetery representative. So that he can share it with each of them. Perhaps I can post it where others can read and appreciate the care and dedication we received.

I will not forget our cemetery representative.  Gracious, gentle, attentive. So focused, yet understanding and kind. Quiet, gentlemanly and knew just what to say. Walking us through each step of the way. Turning what seemed like a hard and unwanted fall, into a gentle journey of acceptance.

It was done right, Mac, it was done right. Dress right, dress.

Thank you.

A Marine’s wife,

Day is done,
Gone the sun,
From the land,
From the sea,
From the sky.
All is well,
Rest in peace,
God is nigh.

Rest in peace Mick. I’ll see you by and by.