The Wish of a Lifetime
A few hours ago I got some startling news, I’m thinking maybe writing about it will help me process it a bit because, at this moment, I have tears in my eyes (the good kind) and I am simply overwhelmed.
In a previous post I wrote a letter to my grandparents on the 68th anniversary of D-Day, the anniversary of when my grandfather (whom I call Da) and other young soldiers stormed the beaches of Normandy. The anniversary of D-Day has always been a huge deal in our family. Growing up I spent afternoons sitting and listening to my Da tell his stories about WWII and I was fascinated (it should be stated, I worship my Da and anyone who has ever met him will know why, he’s a remarkable man). Our oldest son, Liam, has grown up fascinated by his Da’s stories as well, he takes every opportunity he has to talk to Da about WWII and, in particular, D-Day. When Liam was very young Da gave him the dog tags he wore in WWII and, years later, they are still Liam’s most treasured possession. The care he takes with those dog tags exemplifies the love and admiration he has for his great-grandfather–it is limitless and Da is truly his hero. Not only because he bravely fought for his country but also because, in the midst of all the suffering and pain of war, he never lost his humanity and gentleness, for Liam, that is heroic.
So, on to the news. When we were in Minneapolis a few weeks ago Da was told about a remarkable non-profit foundation called “Wish of a Lifetime,” an organization that works to give back to seniors by helping their greatest wishes come true. Da decided this was something he wanted to participate in and, as it has been a dream of his for many years to take Liam to Normandy, he submitted that wish. He wanted to go with him to the beach where so much happened, the beach Liam has always seemed to understand the significance of, even when he was very young. I was extremely touched that this would be his wish, as was Liam, but I kind of put it out of my head because I just couldn’t imagine that it would become a reality. Then today I received an e-mail saying that Wish of a Lifetime had chosen Da’s wish as one they wanted to help make happen. Airfare from Minneapolis for two people, train trip to Normandy, six days in France, tours arranged by the foundation–the whole package. I sat staring at the computer screen, I came just short of pinching myself back into the present, I was completely blown away. Since we’re in Costa Rica this will be a logistical challenge for us but my husband and I are determined to make this once in a lifetime experience happen, whatever we have to do. Going to Normandy with Da is something my family and I have talked about doing for as long as I can remember and, frankly, I am kind of in a state of shock and disbelief that it is actually happening–and that my children will be there to experience it. See? There I go, with the tears again.
When I close my eyes and picture my Da and Liam, his namesake, standing on that beach together, I can’t even articulate the feelings I have; awe, profound love, an overwhelming sense of being grateful not only for such a stunning experience but for having those two in my life. What a gift, just, what a gift. My grandfather, my son, coming full circle together to a beach that once was hell, to a beach that became sacred, to a beach that will become a place for a remarkable connection to history, to each other, to passing on what is important in life–the love of a great-grandfather for his great-grandson and the love of a great-grandson for his Da. The two of them, standing hand in hand, staring at the sand and the sea that was once covered in the bodies of young men who sacrificed everything, young men who were my Da’s friends, young men he risked his life for time and again. That lesson, the touching of what has gone before us, of what has been sacrificed for our freedom, of what a young man was willing to go through in order to protect his great-grandson who would one day stand with him on that beach–it is a circle, it is sacred, it cannot be severed after it has been closed. Those two will close that circle together, as it should be.