For some reason my Grandma popped into my head tonight. She does that alot. If you've ever read anything I've written about her, you know that she was the prime example of unconditional familial love in my childhood and the single greatest influence on my life and what I have become. I miss her terribly and wish so much she could have been her to watch my girls grow up. Of course, I feel her presence in about a billion things: places I go, every time I pick up my camera, cook in the kitchen, or even setting the table.
My Grandmother lost both of her brothers to the military. My great-uncle, Asa, was in the 503 Parachute Infantry Regiment during WWII. He was stationed toward the end of the war, after jumping succesfully in New Guniea, in the Pacific Theater. The 503rd is also known as the "Rock Regiment". The were considered some of the most well trained and experienced Airborne the United States fielded during WWII. They earned the name "Rock Regiment" because they succesfully took back Corregidor in February 1945, which was considered a huge win in the Pacific Theater.
Ace was a member of Company F who jumped onto Corregidor and was with a group of 50 soldiers who fought for 3 hours before winning the Battle of Banzai against over 500 Japanese Marines from their most well trained Japanese Special Landing Force. There were over 6500 Japanese troops on Corregidor when the 503rd landed. When Corregidor was declared secure, only 50 Japanese soldiers remained. The 503rd was awarded the Presidential Unit Citation for its actions.
After participating in retaking Corregidor, the 503rd reportedly returned to Minidoro but was then called out in April 1945 to Negros to bolster troops that were fighting the Japanese there. On April 26th, Ace had a chance to write home while the troops maintained position. On April 28th, during a patrol, Ace was killed by enemy sniper fire and another soldier injured. My great-grandmother received a telegram some days later that he was KIA. F Company continued to win Negros by inches and the fighting was winding down. In August 1945, when the Japanese surrendered, 7500 Japanese troops on Negros yielded to the 503rd.
Ace Dibble was buried in the Manila American Cemetary and Memorial.
My Grandma lost her younger brother, as well, who was serving in the Navy. He has an interesting story for another time. My Grandpa, who married my Grandma, just days before shipping out for the war, a Master Chief in the US Navy, was wounded in WWII.
Why does this all come to mind? Well, the Mormon Gishionnaries(Dean calls them Gishonarries because they are female i.e. girl-missionaries) tonight. And no, I am not Mormon but I enjoy discussing faith, spirituality and philosophy with people of many different religions and have been to numerous churches in my life despite my somewhat rigorous Catholic upbringing. Tonight, we were talking about joy. (Cheesy, eh?) But, truly, what I consider to be joy may not be the traditional I-just-ate-birthday-cake-and-got-14-presents kind of joy. No, I believe our capacity for joy is a direct correlary of our capacity for suffering. It is difficult to truly appreciate the good things when you have not experienced grief or sorrow. I don't mean that we need to seek the bad stuff out, just accept it when it comes. We work so hard to hide, cover up, numb out anything that feels bad. And sadly, I believe that robs us of the brightest spectrum of joy. To me, true joy was holding my girls when they were born, riding my horse on the beach in the surf, giving someone something fabulous anonymously, laying next to White River on the still-cooling rocks in the twilight and watching the universe light up the sky... I could go on and on.
I guess my point is that my Grandmother was so special to me- she was really, really good at finding the joy in daily life and making small things into great adventures. She wasn't a worldly woman, not wealthy or powerful, but she had some kind of magic. She could grow things in her crappy, rocky soil that no one could. She let me keep a pet duck when I lived with her. Fletcher followed us everywhere while we worked in the yard and weeded the garden and he sat between us on the seat of her old blue pick-up when we went to the hardware store or the nursery. She taught me the names of wild things and took me to the library every time I visited her. She told me stories about her ancestors who travelled from Sweden and made their way, eventually, out west. She read me to sleep at night and made fresh cornbread for breakfast. She played a mean game of canasta and loved to go hiking and camping at Mt. Rainier, which we did every chance we got. She helped me find moments every time I was with her where I felt my soul slip into a groove where the universe seemed perfect, understandable, massive but also I could see my place in things and I felt contentment in those moments. Peace, quiet, love, gratitude... those are such gifts that I have only found while living in an individual moment and understanding that everything is right, as it should be. I'm grateful that my Grandmother shared her love and her grief with me, so that I, too, could know more joy.
Sometimes I think religion does get things right. I'm sure there is something in the Bible that could be paraphrased to 'examine your sorrow because therein lies your joy'. Too often we lose the battle and slip into malcontentment over the things that don't matter. I guess sometimes we have to lose what matters to understand what we have. I think, ultimately though, the war goes to joy. Like Dr. Suess says, "Don't cry because its over, smile because it happened."