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Tribute to a Warrior Princess
Zena My Warrior Princess
As of this writing it has now been 4 years 28 days since I last held Zena, my Warrior Princess in my arms. I tasted the salt of her tears as I left again for Iraq, not tears of sorrow mind you, just the bittersweet ones of the routine uncertainty that my service in Iraq, as a contractor, generated for us both. Our years of service in the Army had taught us both that every time we parted we kissed like it would be the last time, because we both knew eventually it would be. Weather it be through the uncertainty of War, or driving home in the car, or her illness. We together had agreed long ago to face each day squarely, accept Gods blessings, and move forward with life, and living it well.
Zena 29 Oct 1959 - 14 Oct 2005
What follows is the eulogy I gave at her funeral. As I reread it today, I realize how inadequate they are to really describe the presence she created in life. But they do I think give some indication of the meaning her life gave to so many. In preparing for her funeral I found out her favorite priest had died just a couple of days after she had and our local priest had to give his service on the same day. So it seemed conducting her service was up to me, I could not have done so without the life strength she had given me over 23 years 10 months and 9 days of marriage. So while others said with what seemed a tone of admiration and respect, “I don’t know how you can manage to do this.” I could only think to my self I don’t see how I could do any thing less. My only unanswered fear in life now is figuring out I could have done more and failed.”
One final thing you should know, Zena was diagnosed with a terminal illness in 1999, Polycythemia Vera, http://www.aafp.org/afp/20040501/2146ph.html while it is generally not fatal if you get it in your sixties (as is normal), it is a certain death sentence when you get it in your thirties. A secondary reason for my service in Iraq was to prepare for the possibility that she may some day be disabled through either a stroke, or the diseases progression to leukemia, and need me home full time. We were on our way to achieving this when God called her home mercifully swift, but to in my view much too soon.
So here are the words I spoke for a remarkable woman, a woman whose example is still an inspiration to me every day.
I stand before you today, to honor an Englishwomen, a soldier’s wife, a Mother, a friend. The gospel reading today while written by Paul, could have well been said or written by Zena at most anytime since we knew of her illness so many years ago.
In words of instruction, Paul writes “Brothers and Sisters Have no anxiety at all, but in everything, by Prayer and petition, with thanksgiving, make your requests known to God” – Have no anxiety, let your worries be free from your soul and let God help you with your burdens through prayer. Make your request, say your petitions, and let the worries pass along to God with your prayer and he will help you. Because then, his peace will be with you. He goes on to say, learn and study the honorable, just, and gracious examples around you, study what I have done, and what I have taught you; And then Keep on doing it. These words are plain and simple, in its beauty and elegance, “Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me”
Just like training in the Army, or lessons at school, Zena’s was a lesson in life well lived; task, condition, and standard; be faithful and true to God, Country, and Family; and may have actually been said or written by her at some point to the boys or me. They are St Paul’s words for eternity, but so much as he may have wrote them, Zena lived them always. She walked the walk.
Early in our relationship, I sat Zena down and eyeball to eyeball told her all of the negative aspects of being a soldiers wife, I told her that it was truly a calling of service, that is to say that it will be a life that can be difficult on it’s good days, and downright cruel on it’s hard ones, with little thanks for the most part, for doing the hard things my country needs us to do. You’re going to live in countries around the world, with out even a glimmer of hope that I could ever be permanently stationed near your family and friends.
When you think you need me the most, I’ll probably be deployed, on an exercise or a mission. I’ll go to work one day and come home six months later and not be able to tell you where I’ve been or what I’ve been doing. Oh and by the way, you’ll be raising our kids on your own, and keeping the household, and paying the bills, and at times you’ll have to be both mother and father to our children.
On top of that not only will we not be rich, we be severely underpaid and may even have a hard time getting by financially. I told her all these things and said this is my calling, being a soldier is not what I do, it is what I am. My love for you is all I really have to offer, will you come with me? Will you be my wife? Are you strong enough? Do you Love me? Will you Follow ME? Will you, can you be a soldier’s wife?
We know her answer; and everyday since she answered that question in the affirmative, I have counted her, and thanked God for her as my third fundamental blessing and gift from him of the day. The first of the three being Life, and the second having something to do with it, that is to say a mission. It was she who reminded me a year and a half ago, what mine was, and sent me to it (Iraq). This speaks to the fundamental strength of our faith and life philosophy, “When God wants you home. You’re going. Till then, he has something for you to do, buck up, get on with it, do your duty top.”
As to duty, she knew hers well, for she kept it no secret from me that her single focus, her meaning, her life mission was as strong a calling for her, as being a soldier was to me. That was to be a good wife and mother; she believed with all her heart that, that was what she was born to do.
As to the privations and problems mentioned above, her answer was always simple, meals and shelter for her and the Boys was all she needed. Everything else was extra. If needs be, she could do with out, as long as we loved each other. We would find a way and we would do our duty. She made every dwelling we ever occupied a home, one that was bright with love and shared willingly with family, friends, and my troops. Day or night, fair weather or foul, there was no such thing as an unwelcome guest.
She was a special friend to so many, through all the times good and bad her friendship was constant, if you needed her or what she had it was yours. If you needed comfort in the trying times, or a laugh in the good ones; she would be there.
As to her Motherly Duties, she knew them well as Dan and John can attest. She was the rock of their learning, she was their biggest fan, and there was absolutely nothing she wouldn’t sacrifice to give her boys what they needed.
Family and giving did not stop at our front door. For she would do anything, move any mountain, be anywhere if her friends and family needed her as so many of us here know. She gave each and all of us so much more with her love, her kind heart, and her passion for life and strength for meeting it. With all of life’s challenges good and bad she didn’t talk the talk much, but we know she walked the walk.
I honor her today as a patriot too. I always marveled at the wonder of her love for me because she loved her country so. There is a special green to England, we have seen nowhere else in the world, the country side in the spring holds a rich deep abiding green that she loved to see. And in the English tradition she loved the sea; a love she shared with my father. A chance to go to the beach was a sure bet to raise a smile for days at a time; but having said that; it was but a mere curl of her lip compared to the smile she would have when she talked to her sister Janie. Their bond is one beyond comprehension to a mere mortal man, they gave each other strength, joy, and Love that was a true jewel of human emotion.
She too always adopted my troops. She loved ‘our soldiers’ and on any new assignment, including this current one; my soldiers were her “troopies”. Around holidays, through deployments, through the Red Cross messages, she would be there for them and their families.
Through it all, through nearly 24 years of marriage, she was a true and faithful patriot to England and America. So I honor her today as a soldiers wife, a warrior of her own kind, a mother, friend and patriot, and if it was allowed I would build in the ancient tradition a funeral pyre big enough and high enough to touch the Sky and let the smoke from it tell the world a soldiers wife now knows her peace, and now rests, a final abiding sleep, and so she will be, ashes to ashes, dust to dust, and today will stand before god with Christ and Mary at her side saying “Forgive this woman her sins, for she too is a blessed mother, and a faithful servant” Uk Prasim Fark ek fidele – That I may be of use – Strong and Faithful.
“Keep on doing what you have learned and received and heard and seen in me”
I offer this story to provide you an insight to my writings of “Stories of My Warrior Princess.” While deployed, conducting Morale Welfare and Recreation Services out on the FOB’s. Time and again I would receive some praise for some little thing I had done, and almost always it was something that just never would have occurred to me had I not been married and shared a life with My Warrior Princess. Those who knew me before she passed will remember how I followed her instructions to say hey to everybody. Most if not all, of the best work I did in MWR were in answer to the question What would Zena Do? These stories, recipes, projects are answers to that question. So I hope you enjoy the read and feel the love…
God Bless each of you and all of you, and his speed to those you love.