Today is a somber day.
We just finished watching a C-SPAN rebroadcast of the 65th Anniversary Commemoration Ceremony at Colleville-sur-Mer, France - the beaches of Normandy. Fourteen years before my own birth, the D-Day invasion turned the tide of modern history. I find it humbling to see the surviving veterans of the Allied Forces who journey there to pay honor to the thousands who laid down their lies there at a moment in history so much bigger than any individual, but comprised of so many brave individuals committed to pay whatever price was required to secure victory and freedom. It is doubtful that those of us on this side of the Conflict can ever really understand.
I watched the faces as the camera panned over the assembled veterans and wondered what they might be thinking as they watched Presidents Obama and Sarkozy, Prince Charles, Gordon Brown and the Canadian Prime Minister on thie dais...all of them too young to have remembered the actual day in history; perhaps all of them not even yet born in 1944 (don't remember how old Charles is). I listened to the carefully crafted words of President Obama as he paid honor to the valor of those present, and still more to the many thousands who were lost; and I wondered if the sentiments he voiced would have any echo in the policy decisions he is implementing and developing. I would not want to be in his shoes.
We silently counted all 21 firings of the 21-gun salute over the shore, wondering if they were World War II vintage guns. And it is always affecting to watch a military flyover and then see the solitary plane peel away into the open skies. When the bugler finished playing "Taps," Bill looked over at Ben and thanked him for helping to play this last year at his dad's funeral. Not easy.
Apologies if this has verged into the maudlin.
Of course, the sad and more personal context for us is that today is our oldest son's 20th birthday; he is out there, but not among us. I dropped a card into the mailbox for him yesterday but couldn't stop a small stream of tears as I drove away. Happy Birthday, David.
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A few hours ago, Bill and I returned from Naperville, where we attended the last day of the ICHE [Illinois Convention of Home Educators]. We haven't attended for the last few years - like most things, it requires planning and effort to attend, and those quantities seem to be in short supply here, more often than not.
We were glad to have gone, although it is always tiring to try and absorb so much information, navigate through crowds, decide which workshops to attend, and the like. It's also another reality check on the passage of time; the first time we came to this convention, everyone but Bill and me was a Hollidayette; John was a toddler, and Cecily was not yet a 'gleam.' [Sheesh, I hope I don't have to explain THAT expression to her anytime soon...] To say we were overwhelmed at that convention would be An Understatement. But this path has proven to be a good decision. The best things are always the harder ones, it seems.
In fact, I have 'decided' that there is an inverse relationship between the need to do something and the ease with which it can be done. For example, I knew this would not be an easy date for us, and that attending this conference is not a 'walk in the park.' Although there were a few laugh-out-loud moments, some parts of it were quite hard for me. But we've come home with the kind of fatigue one feels after having done something one knows should be done.
One of the richer, wrenching sessions was the afternoon keynote by Chris Klicka, the attorney who helped found the HSLDA (Homeschool Legal Defense Association). He recounted some of the legal challenges he was involved in during the 1980s, when homeschooling was legal in only a handful of US sates, and some families were prosecuted. Today, homeschooling is legal in all 50 states and, as he related, there are homeschool families overseas in countries like Germany, where home education is illegal, and France, Austria, and South Africa [where it is heavily regulated by those governments] "who look to the US as a source of hope in their struggle to rear their children according to their own family values in an era when mention of God is often prohibited in classrooms.
I have heard Mr. Klicka on radio programs over the years, and vaguely remembered that he had an illness. But it was a bit of a shock to see him maneuver himself onto the platform in a motorized scooter due to the progression of the multiple sclerosis he was diagnosed with in 1994. MS is often a pitiless diseas in terms of its speed of progression.
"But, I prayed the 'Hezekiah prayer' and asked the Lord to give me 15 more years. That was 15 years ago, and here I am."
He proceeded to quietly and humbly share some recent details of his personal struggle as a still-practicing attorney and homeschooling father of 7. Although he did well, you could tell his word retrieval was becoming a little more affected by the disease; he also excused himself from the final workshop session he was to present, presumably due to fatigue.
I suppose Mr. Klicka is close to may age, maybe a couple of years older. He ended by reflecting on how he faces the challnges ahead by looking behind him and remembering how far the Lord has carried him thus far. It gives one pause to listen to a person like this...perhaps it is an awareness that the curtains giving on to the vestibule of eternity are not far away...seemingly close enough to feel the air current as they start to move. The opportunity to hear him was a privilege.
One of the last things I wrote down from his session was this paraphrase:
"God enables us to endure, far beyond our ability to endure."
2 Cor. 1:8.
Until next time,
Your Faithful Correspondent