Solar Eclipse 2017–Once in a Lifetime Experience

Recently, my husband and I took a quick trip and saw the eclipse in Idaho last week. It was just an amazing event I thought I would share it with you, along with some pictures.

We had visited the Grand Canyon with our family the week before. After they had returned home, Don and I drove to southern Utah and visited Zion and Bryce canyons, along with some beautiful natural areas. Afterwards, we drove through eastern Utah and Western Nevada—very different parts from the mountains and canyons of southern Utah and Northern Arizona.

We spent Sunday night in Jackpot, Nevada, on the border of Idaho. A short night in the small hotel meant we could get up early and drive the less than fifty miles to Twin Falls to catch a bus for a tour with the Chamber of Commerce. More than 300 people all became fast friends while we loaded up in the dark, grabbing water and snacks for the trip north to Mackay, Idaho, a place of totality (full eclipse).

The more than three-hour trip passed pleasantly as we watched the sun rise in the east—to our right. I wondered if it knew it was to be a leading player of our day—just silly early morning thoughts.

We arrived in Mackay, met by both a police car and the sheriff. They wondered what seven buses arriving at the city park just after 9 a.m. on a Monday morning could possibly mean. Mackay is a small town of just over a few hundred people. Supposedly, we were expected and soon disembarked. My husband spied two wooden picnic tables across the park, and we quickly grabbed our places with a few other people, exchanging names and short introductions. Don looked online to get the times for what would happen in the eclipse for us there Mackay. He wrote the times down to help us keep track of the eclipse.

Our tour was arranged by the Chamber of Commerce in Twin Falls, and the promised astronomer never materialized. The wonders of the internet and our shared pool of knowledge, along with some articles people had brought on gave us a fascinating day together.

One lady pulled out an article that talked about the effect seen in the shadows of tree leaves. So, several of us went in search of the phenomenon. Others punched a small hole in a piece of cardboard one lady had in her purse. One couple had their camera on a tripod, ready to take the pictures. The needed filter came in a package of two, so they shared their extra with Don. We had bought a set of special binoculars to use in looking at the sun.

As you can see, we all worked together to make a special event spectacular. I am sharing my pictures with some explanations, so you can enjoy this natural phenomenon with me.

Sharing our unusual experiences is one way we connect through the generations. Have you shared some extraordinary experience with a family member today?

Remember…When you are ready to tell your story, we are ready to help!

At the Intersection of the Silvery Moon and Stony Lake

https://www.google.com/url?sa=i&rct=j&q=&esrc=s&source=images&cd=&cad=rja&uact=8&ved=0ahUKEwissvfM06LVAhUI6CYKHWLXCD8QjRwIBw&url=http%3A%2F%2F100photos.time.com%2Fphotos%2Fneil-armstrong-nasa-man-on-moon&psig=AFQjCNFb9gKO0IP_axGC7c1pvJYvEEEn4g&ust=1501010915367949

July 20, 1969 One small step for man and one giant leap for mankind--Neil Armstrong walks on the moon NASA Photo

In the summer of 1969, I was a camper at the American Youth Foundation Camp Miniwanka, in Shelby, Michigan, on the shores of Lake Michigan. My parents sent both my brother and me up there from Texas for two years, overlapping only one. The boys and girls were in separate camp, of course, in those days. The motto of My own self, At my very best, All the time, was concentrated in the areas of social, mental, physical and spiritual (although years ago the R was for religious). Anyway, the camp is on Lake Michigan and includes a second inland lake, Stony Lake, where we learned to swim and played water games or learned boatmanship. We were busy every day with crafts and other summer camp activities. We lived in cabins with about eight girls and a counselor; mine was a college student from Michigan, an alum of the camp herself.

That year, the camp was finishing the third week of July with our parents picking us up and taking us home to the various states we called home. Since we were from Texas, my folks wanted to extend the summer vacation by visiting and camping in our VW camper through Michigan and into Canada.

That Sunday was a quiet day. We had had a non-denominational church service in the chapel. One of my friends inhaled a bug as she was singing. That caused a minor commotion as she coughed up the moth.

After our communal lunch where we all sat at tables and had a regular meal, like at a home, we were free to go and swim at Stony Lake. A bunch of us went down there, along with several adults, and played ball in the water and on the surrounding beach. As we were all getting out and drying off on the dock, one girl started shouting that she was drowning and couldn’t catch her breath. Without thinking, I jumped in and swam over to her. I was a strong swimmer because my parents had a swimming pool at our house in Texas. I dragged her back to the dock, and the counselors pulled her out of the water.

As I got out, I dried off and began to look for my glasses in my towel, in my bag, on the deck. Slowly, the realization dawned on me that I saw the girl in the water because I was wearing my glasses. Now, those same glasses were fifteen feet down at the bottom of the water. No chance of finding them!

We hiked back to the camp and got dressed for supper. We had a special event planned in the meeting hall of camp for later that night. We were all staying up late to watch Neil Armstrong walk on the moon. The counselors had set up a little black and white TV on the edge of the stage while we crowded around to see this seemingly-impossible feat of a man on the moon. The TV was small and the picture transmitted was not very clear. Without my glasses, the image was even fuzzier. The counselors moved me as close as possible to see the TV. So, today, July 20, 1969, means two things: an astronaut walking on the moon which I struggled to see because I had rescued a drowning girl.

When my parents picked me up, they were surprised to learn what had happened. One of our first stops on our vacation was in Sault Ste. Marie, Ontario, Canada, at an optical shop so I could get some more glasses and see the rest of our family vacation.

What about your life story? Is there an historical event that intersected your life somehow? Share such a moment in the comments, please.

When you are ready to tell you story…remember, we are here to help!

Picking Up Baby Chicks from the Post Office

Why do I want to write my story and want to capture the stories of others? The connections to the past are of supreme importance to our understanding of today. Here is an example of how those connections work.

My dad told me how he and his mother would walk to the post office to pick little boxes of baby chicks ordered from a catalog. They lived in a house in Philadelphia suburbs with an empty lot as part of the property. They grew a large garden and raised chickens, ducks, and goats (for the milk) in that lot. The baby chicks they picked up were packed in soft excelsior (shredded soft wood packaging) in brown cardboard boxes with holes in the sides.

Milton Burney Portrait

My Grandpa Burney as I remember him

When I was very small, I remember going with my farmer grandfather getting a delivery of baby chicks in those same boxes. We got in the pickup and bounced down the county dirt road, named for my grandfather, Burney Road. It was always exciting to take a trip to Center Point, Texas. A grand name for a small town of only one major road, two churches (one Baptist and one Methodist), a Masonic Lodge, a barber shop, a five-and-dime store, a locally owned grocery store, a general school building that held all 12 grades with a field for football and baseball games and track. The largest piece of property was the cemetery at the edge of town.

Grandpa always parked right in front of the post office. We stepped up onto the sidewalk and walked into the post office with the walls lined with little doors which opened with a key to get mail. I remember he picked up two boxes of baby chicks, packed in excelsior, and put them in the seat of the pickup between us. Cheep! Cheep! They made a lot of noise as they drove back to the farm.

Back at home, Grandpa unloaded the boxes and carefully put them on the worktable in the garage. He had a light set up just a few inches above some metal boxes about four inches high with screens on the top and bottom and holes in the side, like the cardboard boxes. As I watched in fascination, he carefully picked up each chick and put it in one of two of the little cages.
Then, we waited for a few days—seemed like months to me—and the little chicks were ready to move to the chicken coop. Grandpa carried those boxes to the chicken coop and opened them up and the baby chicks ran out among the other chickens—raising all kinds of ruckus as they got to know each other.

I don’t need any baby chicks today—even if the post office would deliver them, but this little memory brings a smile to me today,[ and I hope it does to someone else. Connections across generations and decades.

Positive Approaches to Aging

Here’s a question for our Friday musings: How can we positively approach aging?

Recently I met three older gentlemen and I have a few observations to share.

The first gentleman I met always has been a great reader of history and literature and has met many challenges head-on through the decades. Conversing with him was full of literary and historical allusions as we exchanged a few pleasantries.

The second man, also a great reader also, but in more limited areas, and now is content to remember his one great challenge in life and pursue new hobbies. Spending time together was a great time of remembering shared experiences and interesting little details about life today.

The third man also has been a great reader throughout his life. And, like the first gentleman, this third man has met and conquered challenges over and over, spent much time writing and reading books in a wide variety of areas. Conversation with him is lively and challenging across the whole spectrum of life and social and political commentary.

All three are within 10 years of each other, mid-80s to late 90s. They are all in different places physically. All three still have good minds and are surrounded by family members who support them as they continue to live in their own homes. Chatting with all three brought a few thoughts to my own mind—set me to thinking about my own aging.

What makes the difference in how people age? That has been a much-pondered question through the ages. Unless something catastrophic happens, most of us can expect to live much longer than our grandparents or even our parents lived. Improvements in diet and medicine have been two of the biggest contributors to our longevity. Someone told me recently that she had heard about the latest diet ideas of how to avoid dementia in old age—coffee, blueberries, pecans, were just a few of the diet suggestions. Doctors tell us to get shots for disease prevention, like singles or pneumonia. These advances help us live longer.

So, the question becomes what should we do with all these extra years denied to many people around the world and throughout history. That is what really matters, isn’t it? We don’t want the quality of our daily lives to deteriorate, but what is our benchmark? As children, we thought that if we could just be a few years older, we could do more. Then when after we have added those few years, we think that if we could just be younger, we could do more. We are just never totally satisfied.

The one aspect of a successful aging is a good attitude and connections with other people—not just focusing on ourselves and our problems—no matter how big they might seem. Those connections help us learn something new and add to the richness of our days. A great topic of conversation, of course, is our stories from times gone by, especially if we can relate those stories to events going on right now—either in the world or in our own little world of family and friends.

Cheery handpainted coffee cup

Even a special coffee cup can brighten up your day!

How can we foster a good attitude each day?

Here are just a few ideas:

1. Enjoy the unexpected today—maybe some sun in a week of rain or a song on the radio or even a seldom-used coffee cup.
2. Learn something new today—a new recipe or maybe a new activity.
3. Speak a positive—not a negative word—to another person. Perhaps a compliment or just thanking them for coming by today.
4. Be friendly to the other person, and not grouchy.
5. Realize that relationships are more important than possessions. We are remembered for how we treated others, not for what we possessed and hoarded.
6. Give to others more than you expect to get back, even if that is just a kind smile.
7. Exchange your stories with someone else, enjoying each other.

So, we must make the most of today. Get up and drink that cup of coffee and eat a handful of blueberries and whatever else you think might help you get through the day. Who can you share your story with today?

Remember: When you are ready to share your story, we are ready to help!

Cataract Surgery and Life

We started 2017 with quite a bang, quite frankly. On January 1, my husband and I flew into Albuquerque, NM from Richmond, Virginia where we had spent Christmas with one of our daughters. After spending the night, drove to Flagstaff, AZ, by way of our home in the Four Corners area to exchange cars. Quite a busy travel day of several hundred miles!

Tuesday, January 3, I began my adventure with eye surgery. Realizing that many people have had cataract surgery, my experience has not been not unusual, fortunately. The only thing that makes my cataracts different is that they developed very quickly. So, everything about all this has happened in quick succession.

"Carol C McLaren"

Here I am!

The surgery date was set for the following Tuesday, January 10 at 8:15 a.m. Now I am in that between-state that can be really confusing. What I can see so well with one eye means I can see nothing with the other eye! And, my glasses aren’t much help because the correction between the two is too different. That is how I understood the doctor to explain why I see more than double with the clear glass in one lens while the other lens still as the old prescription.

So, I have spent this week learning now to look around with one eye while putting in lots of drops! It is getting easier and that is happy news.

Mom and her deep-set eyes

Mother

Here is what is interesting to me. Without my glasses, I look a lot like my mother. I have the same deep-set eyes which I didn’t even know I had until after Tuesday’s surgery when I got distance vision. As readers of this blog know, my mother died at 52, almost 40 years ago. I am almost 10 years older than that now and our coloring is very different, but I now can see that I look much like her. I guess that is the way it usually works—we resemble to some extent our parents and grandparents and ancestors. That is what makes up families! Sometimes it is not just the physical characteristics that we share. Perhaps we share interests or preferences.
Deep set eyes run in the family

Ida Garrett Burney, my maternal grandmother


What are your physical characteristics that carry through from generation to generation? Perhaps there is a shared interest that carries from generation to generation. In my case, cooking and reading and teaching are the generational interests that run through my family. My grandparents were teachers as were my parents and as well as I have been. Even one of my daughters is still involved in education. And, my ancestors were involved in farming and country living. Now, my brother, Mark, has returned to the land, buying a little piece of property outside of the big city where he has lived for decades.

This is a short post, but I really can’t see very much yet. So, enjoy my silly observations and take a little time to think of the similarities you share with your parents and grandparents! Look at it the other way, how do your children and grandchildren resemble you? It is fun exercise for this new year as we look to tell our stories.

And, remember, when you are ready to tell your story, we are ready to help!

Wedding Dresses Get New Life

I am getting ready to travel back to Virginia where my younger daughter lives. I had asked her several weeks ago if she would like my wedding dress or the wedding dress of my mother. Susan is a photographer and likes to use old dresses in some of her pictures. She wants both wedding dresses.

I unpacked the preserved dresses from those expensive boxes the dry cleaners put together, promising this heirloom will last as 100 years of memories. The corrugated boxes were brittle but the gold boxes inside were the promised shiny and bright and fresh-looking. The dresses were in good condition, considering their age.

wedding dress all laid out

1978 Wedding Dress

My wedding was more than 38 years ago, and my mother’s was 69 years ago, come January 5. My dress, made of some synthetic material, was a bought dress off the rack but my mother’s was satin, hand-made by her mother and grandmother. Each sequin, bead, and lace was attached carefully with neat little stitches. My mother was uncommonly thin and the thin waistline of the dress is a bit startling.

Her dress is of an old-fashioned style with long sleeves that came to a fine point over the hand, popular in 1948. Mine is much more of a sleek, modern style with smooth lines and not much lace or beads with falling cape sleeves. Hers must have fit Mother like a glove while mine hung loosely from the shoulders. Like all brides, I am sure we both were beautiful on that special day and deliriously happy, marrying the most handsome man in the world, in our eyes.

Mother's Wedding Dress

1948 Wedding Dress

Mother married at her parents’ home in Austin on Monday afternoon, January 5, 1948, her 21st birthday. I married on Friday night, June 9, 1978, in the chapel of the church I had attended as a college student and where my parents were still members. Just two attendants stood up with my parents but I had six bridesmaids and six groomsmen, all in matching yellow dresses and light blue tuxedos! Linnie Maffett Burney became the bride of the Rev. Robert George Collmer. Shortly thereafter she legally changed her name to Linn B. Collmer—thereby getting rid of the hated double name so popular with parents in Texas in the 20s and 30s. I became Carol Collmer McLaren, the bride of Dr. Donald Wayne McLaren.

The guests scattered rice on the 1948’s couple as they drove away from the house for an overnight stay in New Braunfels, not far from Austin where they had married. On Tuesday, it was back to school and work for the happy couple—Mother to Rosebud-Lott Independent School District where she taught high school English and to Baylor University where my father was working on his bachelor’s degree in English and Bible, after a stint in the army during the war. Life got down to a pattern quickly with school and the part-time pastorate my father had in Clarkson.

At our wedding decades later, we threw birdseed (to be ecologically correct) and drove to Salado, Texas for the weekend. Our honeymoon was equally short as Don had to take his medical licensing exam that next Monday and start his family practice internship soon thereafter across the state in Amarillo. Our lives, too, fell into a pattern of sorts—for a little while—Don at the hospital and me at the local newspaper.

The beautifully decorated chapel with the flowers and candles where I had married that Friday night became a much more somber chapel thirteen months later on a sunny summer Friday afternoon, when we celebrated my mother’s life. No bright candles or joyful music filled the chapel that afternoon; instead, the muted music of a funeral called each mourner there to contemplate life and death. Mother’s casket filled the front of the little chapel where Don and I had stood and pledged our futures to each other just a few months earlier. A single spray of red roses lay over the rich mahogany casket that held the shrunken body of my beloved mother, felled by ALS, Lou Gehrig’s Disease. The service was beautiful but it was startling to realize that life and death are so closely related. Many of the same guests came to both services—one of great joy and one of great sorrow.

Today, I wouldn’t change anything about giving my photographer daughter these dresses. It means these dresses will once again be useful, bringing a smile to someone’s face. The relationships of family—mother and daughter and husband and wife—can’t be given away or turned yellow with age. Such relationships that we forge over a lifetime are of lasting value. They cannot be replaced.
What do you have to share with the next generation? Do you have a treasured heirloom that has yellowed in the box but stayed beautiful and pristine in your memory? How are you sharing those memories with someone?

Check out my daughter’s website to see her beautiful pictures! www.susanmclarenphotography.com

Remember, when you are ready to tell your story, we are ready to help!

Who has influenced your life today?

Who has influenced you?

Here I am honoring those who have influenced me

Recently I spent some time with my parents at their home in Texas. I am collecting my father’s life stories to include them in a book of his life.

As I drove through the town, I drove down a street where an influential English professor of mine once resided. While Dr. Frank Leavell has been dead for several years, his influence continues to impact my life. He taught me to love literature and the process of writing. He was the faculty sponsor of the English Honor Society, Sigma Tau Delta, when I was at Baylor University. Dr. Leavell led several of us to the biennial conference one year at the University of Mississippi in Oxford, Mississippi. This was my first big trip to a conference with real writers who spoke about the craft of writing. Eudora Welty, the 20th century U.S. writer, who wrote novels and short stories about southern culture. She was an established writer coming to the end of her writing life, or so it seemed to us college students. Her career would go on for another 20 years or so, actually. She spoke about the importance of working at the art of writing. She spoke of writing about what you know best and bringing that world to your readers, through the characters, the dialog, the setting, and the plot.

So, I got to thinking about us as Personal Historians. We help people write about what is important to them. Just like I was thinking about my college professor from almost four decades ago, his gift of encouraging me to read, think and write continues to affect me to this day. What a joy it is to spend afternoon reading with a hot cup of tea beside me as I enter a new world of adventures. And the advice of this famous author to write about what is important to me helps me realize how important our stories really are for our families and our friends, and even those we don’t yet know. We know our stories better than anyone else. And, those stories can make a difference in our lives and the lives of our loved ones.

Who has been influential in your lives? What impact has that person made on your life? How do you live differently today than you might have lived?

Remember, when you are ready to write your story, we are ready to help!
Telling our stories. Dr. Frank Leavell. Eudora Welty. Influential people.

Why do I need to save my life story?

I don’t have children, so why do I need to save my life story?

17th-century portrait of Huygens family by Adriaen Hanneman

Constantijn with his children


This is a question I ask myself often as I have children but no grandchildren. However, there is value in our stories. Recently I have been working on writing my father’s story. Dr. Robert G. Collmer is his formal name, but to me, he is Daddy. We have been talking about life and our stories and I got to thinking about why our life stories are worth saving.

Daddy translated a diary of Lodewijk Huygens, the son of a prominent Dutch diplomat to England during the 17th century, Constantijn Huygens. This younger son was something of a disappointment to the famous father who had two remarkable sons. Constantijn Huygens, Jr., is known for his work in the aerial telescope and his diaries that recorded the court life in Holland and England, among other subjects. The second son, Christiaan Huygens, is said to be the greatest scientist of that century. He is still known today for his work in centrifugal force, pendulum clock, and wave theory of light, for a small sample. Of the two younger brothers, Lodewijck, is of interest to this topic of why we should keep our stories.

As my father explained, this young man was casting about for life direction. His father, Constantijn had connections in the diplomatic world. So, he arranged for his young son to be a part of what turned out to be the last diplomatic mission between the two countries before they went to war in 1652. The only requirement for the young man was that he keep a diary. Lodewijck followed his father’s orders, and his journal is filled with all kinds of interesting facts, from daily meals to cost of items to the people he met and where he went.

Fast forward several hundred years, Dr. A.G.H. “Fred” Bachrach, head of the English Studies at the University of Leiden, the oldest university in The Netherlands. He was interested in this 17th century diary of Lodewijck Huygens, but it needed to be translated and cross-referenced concerning the people and places mentioned. They worked together on this three-hundred-old diary for a decade or so.

“What is just fascinating about this diary is the references to the diplomacy as these two countries marched to war,” my dad said. As an expert in 17th century literature and history, my dad has found this diary to be a key to greater understanding of this pivotal century in Europe. Just a mention of how significance this time was here is a short (an incomplete) list: John Bunyan (The Pilgrim’s Progress, Holy War); Elizabeth 1 died; King James Version of the Bible; John Locke; Isaac Newton; Galileo discovered the rings of Saturn; The Great Plague of London, are just a few of the amazing people and events. Oh, yes, I forgot opera during this century was developed all around Europe as well.

The little diary that Constantijn assigned his young ne’re-do-well son, Lodewijck, has opened a whole window on a time of intrigue, power, tension, horse stabling and supper. Sometimes what seems mundane to us will prove to be remarkable and momentous for a future generation, even for people who aren’t relatives.

So, our stories are needed for the future. Let’s get started…what did you do today?

Remember, when you are ready to write your story, we are ready to help!

The Challenge of Downsizing

Grandma's Coffee Set and Tea Cakes

Grandma's Coffee Set and Tea Cakes

Life is full of the unexpected from good news to the not-so-good news.

These past few months have been a whirlwind as my husband and I have been going through gigantic changes. First, he learned that he would be given the opportunity to leave his company where we have been for most of our adult years. Then, we went through the agony of no prospect of no job soon. Then, a job opened up on the other side of the country—far away from the familiar and quite close to the exotic.

So, we went through the down-sizing that many other people have faced, getting rid of what was a precious treasure to us and discovered that those treasures were just junk to others, much to our surprise.

Like a long movie, so much good stuff was left on the cutting floor because the final product would not benefit another person. All those cast-offs become the out-takes we had so enjoyed at the end of the feature movie. So, too, at our house and with our lives–off with the appliances, good dishes, pictures, books, and so much more. Instead, we have less clutter and more time to for other activities, instead of dusting and caring for our stuff.

In just a short time, gone was the furniture we had used for decades, bought when we were young and full of hope for the future. After years of wear and tear, five pieces of the set are gone to the consignment store to sit and wait for someone, anyone, to pick up at a bargain. The hand-carved Old Teak Thai furniture just does not fit in with the modern, more casual world. The magnificent lighted china hutch was just so much trash for someone looking for a cheap deal. Our outdoor furniture and grill went to people who complained about the price as they carried off hundreds of dollars of materials for a tiny fraction of their original price. The list goes on and on as we rid ourselves of big and small things. Our lives are more than stuff, but sometimes we are too slow to realize that.

As I asked one of my daughters if she wanted something from her childhood, she replied that while she did not anything, she was content with the memories. That is a mature way to look at things, and for that I am proud of her. I gave those precious childhood treasures to another young family who could use those things to make their own memories. Our other daughter said she wanted the set of china from her paternal grandparents and then looked to a website to find the missing pieces. When she moves into her own apartment, she will be ready to give a party. My maternal grandmother gave large and fancy parties during the 1930’s while living in Austin, Texas. Her silver, china and fine linens are no longer part of this modern world. I sometimes wonder what we have lost with those gracious manners of a time long ago. Pleasant times are not defined by the stuff, but by the company around the table. For that I am thankful.

What about you? Have you had to downsize for yourself or for your parents? How do you decide what to keep and what to get rid of either by giving away or by selling? Life means change and downsizing is part of life. Share your thoughts with others.

Remember, when you are ready to tell your story, we are ready to help!

Remembering D-Day

An Overview of the Bedford, Virginia, memorial

Recently, I spent a pleasant spring afternoon on a Virginia hillside walking through the memorial for the D-Day invasion of Normandy on June 6, 1944, when 160,000 Allied troops landed along the French coastline. The cool southern Virginia breeze belied the horrors of that day on a far-away beach, memorialized at the National D-Day Memorial in Bedford.

The monument tells the story of Overlord, the original name for the invasion to free Europe from German Nazi domination. Beginning in the east and moving west, the memorial holds statues of Franklin D. Roosevelt and Winston Churchill and an English garden, stylized a bit for the Americans, but with busts of European generals and admirals and other important military leaders. Standing under a portico at one end is General Dwight D. Eisenhower, the man under whom the whole operation was conceived and executed.

From this garden, the visitor walks up to the Gray Plaza where bronze plaques list the names of 4,413 men who died on D-Day as they came ashore. The Allied Expeditionary Forces represented the United States, Canada, and the United Kingdom. Beyond this one sees a tableau of granite sculptures that represent the gaping opening of the ships disgorging soldiers into the Atlantic as other soldiers struggle to reach the shore as shots rain down on them, killing some while others get ashore. Finally, several soldiers scale the monument wall to the Victory Plaza and its towering arch with teh word Overlord carved into the gray granite. Finally, in the eastern-most section, pedestals under the busts of President Truman and Prime Minister Clement Attlee include a list of the changes they brought and programs they instituted that have shaped our world, even to today, seventy years later.

My family and I have lived in Richmond, Virginia for more than a decade and I often heard stories of the 34 Bedford Boys. During that assault on Omaha Beach in 1944, 19 of the young Bedford men died with four more who died in the subsequent fighting in Normandy. At the time, the town had a population of about 3,200 people, and this great loss, marked Bedford as suffering the severest loss on D-Day, proportionately, of any town in America. Blue Star mothers have children serving in the armed forces. And, Gold Star mothers have lost a child in the services. Little garden spaces remind the visitor to the memorial that flowers bloom from the ground of sorrow. Garden areas with flowering plants and benches remind the visitor that beauty grows from sorrow, a testimony to the resiliency of the human spirit. So, this memorial is built outside this little hamlet in the great Appalachian Mountains. The rural community of Bedford is just east of Roanoke, Virginia on Hwy. 460.

This Memorial Day has greater meaning for me as I realized that my freedom was bought at such a great cost. I am thankful for the men and women who are willing to fight for me to enjoy worshiping God, reading and writing as I please, doing what I believe to be right day after day.

Thank you, veterans, for fighting for me and for us Americans who sometimes forget to say thanks. And, thank you to the families who live on after their loved ones have died fighting for freedom. Such a burden is not an easy one to carry, but I am thankful for your sacrifice.

Our veterans have stories to tell us about the cost of our freedom. Let’s take time this weekend to honor those who have given their lives so we might be free. Share a story today about the never-ending struggle for freedom.

Remember when you are ready to tell your story, we are ready to help!