I am reading a book entitled After the Flag Has Been Folded: : A Daughter Remembers the Father She Lost to War–and the Mother Who Held Her Family Together, by Karen Zacharias. Ms. Zacharias is an outstanding writer. As a reader, you feel like you are there with her when she receives the news at age 9 that her father was killed in Vietnam. His untimely death of course is the defining moment in her life. In the book, she describes life after “the man in the jeep came.”
A man from a military installation showed up at their rural Tennessee home in a jeep one day to notify the family of her father’s death. He died as a soldier in Vietnam. …. I read her account of the death notification through two different viewpoints. I could relate to losing a father at a young age. And I have also been the “man in the jeep.” No doubt I have been referred to as the man who was in the front seat of a patrol car with the police officer. I have done a number of death notifications over the years where small children were involved. What I have always tried to do is to treat those devastated children the way I would want my kids treated in similar circumstances.
As I have read this particular story, what one thought stands out. I have a sneaking suspicion that every adult can point to a pivotal moment or event that has defined or shaped their life to a large degree. The day the man came in the jeep turned Karen Zacharias life upside down and inside out. Life as she knew was over. The loss of her father at age 9 continues to shape her adult life today.
It occurs to me that most people can point to such a moment or time period in their life. I recently visited with some colleagues over lunch who described in detail how the divorce of their parents when they were young rocked their world. That event became life defining for them. I have heard horrific accounts of childhood sexual abuse from grown men and women. Such violations can also define a person’s life. Potentially positive events like a move to a new community for a child can also be the pivotal event they look back on as adults.
I am thinking that we can understand a person much better if we ever unearth what it is in their life that they consider the defining moment. I have an 80 year old friend who is a dedicated and capable volunteer for Habitat for Humanity. Just recently I discovered that his father left his mother for another woman when he was 5 years in old in 1935…He left my friend’s mother with 8 children to raise alone during The Great Depression. I wonder if that defining moment drives him now to extend compassion to people who struggle to have a decent home.
Today I am going to choose to listen more carefully, because I might just discover what events are shaping the lives of my friends today. I think I can understand my friends much better if I know a little more about their story. It is not necessary to say: OH that is what causes you to act the way you do. Instead we should choose to just quietly reach out to those we love once possess a more complete knowledge of their story.
I recommend the book by Karen Zacharias. It is insightful and inspiring! Take the time to read it this year.