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Born With a Broken Heart - Remembrance For a Wounded Warrior
He was cremated with the
Ashes of his
Twenty-two year-old cat,
From the tiny urn that had sat
Beside his bed for four years.
If she's waiting across the
Rainbow Bridge, she's
Leading cats, squirrels, ducks
A dog worth a "million bucks", all
Of them singing his heart-song.
Recognizing Signs, Saying Words
I wrote the poem offered above for the Memorial Program used at the services for a lonely Vietnam Veteran this past summer. He had already known that I appreciated him for his compassion and good deeds toward people in trouble; and if he had been sitting in the services, embarrassment would have captured him inescapably. This is because he felt more confident and safe when he was angry.
Although this veteran had suffered verbal and physical abuse as a child with a parent, a foster parent and a clergyman, had survived cancer, had been injured behind enemy lines in Vietnam, had suffered substantial areas of second and third degree burns on the job, and survived multiple injuries and surgeries, none of these things killed him. Through much of this, he'd tried to work and to be a present father.
After 35 years of fighting, Robert finally received a designation of full disability with the VA, but lived only a year or two afterward. The autopsy uncovered a significant heart condition that would have precluded the decades of pain medications prescribed for him, if a complete physical exam had ever been done. We could find only partial workups and very little examination of the cardiovascular system.
This man was not everyone's favorite, certainly. He was often angry, but he was often sad and few seemed to know this. He did good things and bad. He had a course set for improving his life and died when he had it in place. Some loved him, some hated him. How many Vietnam Veterans will ever receive the respect due to them, anyway? His depression, often manifesting as pain and anger, foretold heart disease that family and even the medical community did not see. Everyone looked the other way. After the disability determination, some stopped looking at all.
This man was broken-hearted in many ways and I saw it distinctly only a few months before his death, but at least I saw it. It had happened to two other men I knew in the last two years. I had time to say Oh, no and he was gone. At least he was able to enjoy a few years with his grandchildren and they will remember him. His son tells good stories about him.
One of the last things I told him occurred when he played for me an early tape of himself performing as an Elvis Tribute Artist after the star's death. I could not tell that it was NOT Elvis and I told him that. I'm glad I did; it was true.
He was modest about this talent, but becoming increasingly depressed over the years, he quit performing at hospitals for patients. When his first wife died, he stopped singing altogether (they had performed together) and this was sad. I have his recording today and can listen to him any time, but it's not like going to a performance to encourage and appreciate a friend and his wife.
Another Friend Soon Lost
I lost two friends in as many months.
Bob and Tom. Both were men that had helped others. One was a Vietnam War Veteran active in his neighborhood community and the other was a Preacher and Bible School Professor. They both died suddenly, one of an undiagnosed heart condition, the second in a motorcycle accident on the way home after a Wednesday night service -- Tom was broadsided by a driver.
My first friend had two services. The second had none - Odd, for a Preacher.
Few attended Bob's memorials for various reasons - poor health, too far, guilt; many friends and family were already gone, anyway. His son's friends all told good stories, though, like Indians telling war tales at the campfire. It was good.
Tom's wife wanted no funeral, no memorial; but the church held it's own and everybody attended. I don't know what to say about him yet, but I have good memories.
All text and poetry © 2011 by Patty Inglish. All rights reserved.