We called ourselves the Lieutenant Mafia. I can’t remember the origin of that name but I know there’s a good story there. The Lt Mafia was a group of young officers stationed at Barksdale Air Force Base, Louisiana for our first duty assignment. We were a tight group. We ate our meals together, spent our weekends together (did I mention we were young?), laughed all the time, and provided each other with constant support.Charles Ransom was a big part of that group. He passed out candy at David’s first Halloween, he helped me move, he played practical jokes on me, and he traveled across the country to come to my wedding. As an officer, Charles was a natural and dynamic leader. His leadership style didn’t come from bluster and rank; he cared, saw the big picture, and approached problems with creativity and an open mind.On May 1, I learned that Charles was killed in Afghanistan. It was a hard loss. It’s still a hard loss. Charles was an officer, a leader, an airman, a son, and a good friend. I’ll never forget him. So today, Memorial Day, I’m dedicating this post to him. This post is about joy and Charles brought joy into my life and the lives of so many others. I miss him.
My friend Wendy recently wrote a wonderful post about joy. It was a reminder that there is so much joy to be had in life, even when it seems like we’re smothering in loss and grief. Here are the things that have given me true joy in this past week:
This first picture is taken the night of the tornado. We’d traveled with the kids from our home to a hotel. This drive would normally take us fifteen minutes; it took us three hours. On that drive to find safety and shelter, we saw heartbreak and horror like I’ve never seen before and hope never to see again. BUT at the end of the night we were together, our babies exhausted but safe. When I look at this picture the feelings of relief and joy that I had at that moment, on that night come flooding back:
Of course, not everyone’s child made it safely home that night. There is no joy in that for me. I know the belief that they’re in a better place should be joyous but, personally, I’m not there yet. There is, however, joy in this YouTube clip. Will Norton did not survive the tornado but he lived an amazing life, the kind of life most of us twice his age have yet to live, and there is great joy in that knowledge.
There is joy in the outpouring of love, offers of assistance, children’s clothing, and willingness to spend hours doing dirty, back-breaking work clearing our debris. Crews of people – coworkers, friends, strangers – have just showed up and worked. Even when Keith and I weren’t there, they swarmed the property with chainsaws, wheelbarrows, and even skid-steer loaders (I just learned what those are!) and they worked. How do you thank people like that? How could we have made it without them? That’s joy.
Today, Keith and I left Joplin and drove to my parent’s house to spend the day with the kids. We took the day to laugh with family and snuggle with our kids. There were also moments when we had to take deep breaths because, watching our kids play and fight and dance and swim, we were sometimes overwhelmed with the reality of how fragile they are and how close we came to not having days like today. It made today even more joyful.
I read a Chinese proverb that says, “One joy scatters a hundred griefs.” The joys here don’t even begin to scatter the amount of grieving in Joplin right now. But they’re a start.