Sunday, October 14, 2007

A reflection on heroes

Life has been filled with some twists, turns, and surprises of late that I feel must be written here but I haven't had either the time or words to write them.

I have spent some time of late reflecting on the life of one of my heroes, my grandfather, Jerome Joseph Clarkson. He was a soldier in World War II and nearly gave his life defending his platoon. What makes him my hero was the life he led after he returned from the war. He fathered my father and uncle, raised his family and worked for everything he had.

When my dad was about 7, roughly 1952, they were all driving down the road in the family car, my dad, his brother, and an aunt in the back seat and my grandfather and grandmother in the front. A drunk driver coming the other way struck the head on, injuring my grandfather's legs and sending my grandmother through the windshield. She suffered brain damage sufficient that doctors recommended she be committed and he move on with his life.

My grandfather stayed by her side, raising my father and uncle and caring for her till the day he died in 1989. On October 2nd, his wife and my grandmother passed away. I received a tearful call early that morning from my father reporting that cancer had finally claimed her. She had suffered with breast cancer and myriad other forms of cancer for 20 years now so death was a peaceful release. During that entire time she never complained. The one memory I carry most of her is her smile. Always kind, loving, and just happy to be alive.

I attended her funeral and spoke with my family for the first time in two years. All of these events brought up thoughts of my hero and I asked myself now what he would think of the man I have grown to be. Over the ensuing couple of weeks my family and I have made amends and a weird kind of peace has returned to that relationship.

On another front I went to church with my in-laws again and surprisingly the Bay Area Fellowship is still standing. The sermon that day was quite inspirational and it moved me to ask what is so important to me I would risk my life for it. Aside from the obvious, "my wife and family" answers, the things we would risk everything for should take priority in our lives.

I look at the things I am most passionate about and I have to say, I would risk my life if speaking out against intolerance and hatred in "God's" name could save just one innocent life. If the movement I start here could spare one person, my life has meaning. Ironic, the words of a preacher inspiring an atheist to action to stop religion from poisoning minds and hurting the innocent...

In the end, I look at my grandfather and the values he passed on to me through his actions. He was never a deeply religious man but believed always in giving all one could to help his fellow man. When all is said and done, if I have given even half of the love and effort that great man gave the world, I will have done well. All of that while maintaining my grandmother's smile and I will have changed the world, even if it is only my corner of it.

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