And there is joy

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.

Captain Charles Ransom, United States Air Force

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:

Exhausted but safe.

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.

BEFORE
AFTER

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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.

No, Emily isn't screaming in horror. It was just cold. Really, really cold.

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.

26 thoughts on “And there is joy

  1. Sorry to hear of yet another deep loss in such a short span of time. My condolences to you and Capt. Ransom’s family. I just saw the article where Will was found, too. Praying for all.
    Thank you once again for opening your heart, penning the words, and giving us a peek into the highs and lows that we, as a people, call life.
    Thanks for sharing your beautiful family, they are a treasure, just like you, Amy.

    1. Thank you so much for the prayers. And I agree — they are definitely a treasure – exhausting and loud, but priceless.
      May’s been a rough month (I’m going for understatement apparently). I’ll be glad to leave it behind tomorrow.

      Amy

  2. I’m glad to learn more about your friend, Charles, Amy…I know he will be sorely missed!

    I’m glad you’re able to find some small amounts of joy in what certainly has been a devastating week for all of you! Please know that all of your friends here in blogland are with you in spirit as you continue the work you have in front of you!

    Hugs,
    Wendy

  3. Amy, when I saw the picture of the kids in the pool, I thought “Is it warm enough to swim?” Your caption answered that question for me.

    What a wonderful post and dedication to Charles. I am grateful for the countless men and women like Charles who have fought and continue to fight for this country. God bless them all.

    My the joy continue to slowly scatter the grief.

    Prayers,
    ~ Lenore

    1. Lenore, it was freezing! But they had their hearts set on it and an amazing friend had sent them new swimsuits. There was just no way we couldn’t swim. Glad to report that hypothermia did not set in — although I think we came close. 🙂

      Thank you for your kind words and your support for my family. More personal thanks to come later.

      Amy

  4. I’m so sorry to hear about Charles, Amy. Losing friends is just terrible; but to have them taken away during wartime is doubly painful.

    Bless the crews that helped with the cleanup. I’ve been there before. The work is exhausting, but satisfying in the extreme.

    Bill

  5. Nice tribute Amy. You are doing what must be done by finding all the positives. That’s a great way to start overcoming the obstacles. I saw the clip from Will Norton from your FB the other day. Ended up learning about him for over an hour and wrote a post based on the amazing stuff I found. What a guy.

  6. Sorry to read about the loss of your friend, Charles, Amy. Glad to read about all that positive energy you, your family and community have. I continue to pray for all of you.

  7. Hearing how your children braved the frigid pool water – it made me smile. It also reminds me how stubborn and resilient children are even in harsh conditions.

    I love the stories of people helping each other.

    The sleeping photo of the exhausted kids.

    Will’s video had me awe, of all the wonderful things he did before ever graduating. Your words on how it left you smiling each encounter – it says so much.

    Thanks for talking about Charles – he sounds like an amazing guy, and wonderful friend. His smile is infectious.

    Both Will and Charles and their memories, the smiles they gave you, will always be a part of you. Because of this a piece of them will always live on.

    Hugs and best wishes to you as you continue to find the good in life.

    I wish I could help more.

  8. You posed the question: How do I thank them? Let me give you my answer to that.

    You rebuild. You live happily ever after. It’s a lesson we in New Orleans learned after Katrina, when thousands and thousands of strangers offered us help.

    Then, after you rebuild, you pay it forward, and give thanks. 🙂

    1. I just love your answer. Thank you for speaking from your experience and you’re so right — what better way could there be to express gratitude? Do you mind if I post this on my Facebook page? There are so many people in Joplin who would appreciate your words!

  9. Amy – Are you or other families in Joplin in need of any children’s clothing or bathroom supplies? I have some cute spring/summer, gently-used clothing for girls up to size 4/4T and boys up to size 2T. Also, I have hoodie baby bath towels, beach towels and general use bath towels. I would be happy to donate all of these items. Is there a location near you where I could send donations of this kind?

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