A few days ago, I received a photograph of a single mother and her three beautiful daughters. I don't know any of them, but I am touched by the reason it came to me.
As many of you know, for the past three years I have participated in Wreaths Across America at Arlington National Cemetery. Originally, I started volunteering so that I could personally place a wreath on my father's grave each year.
When friends heard about what I was doing, they mentioned their loved ones who were also buried there, and I gradually began building a list of markers to check on. There are far too many volunteers for me to get to each grave first, but I walk to each one to make sure that a wreath has been placed there. If they need fixing or anything else I take care of that. I then straighten up, pause to reflect, and take a photo to send to the people who asked me to be there. Because the cemetery is so large and so full, it takes me several hours to get it done, but it seems like no time at all.
Last year, I wrote a post about my tradition and offered to add to my list anyone that any reader requested. Not long after, into my inbox came a message from Cindi Nitz, of South Dakota. She told me of her nephew, Navy Lt. Clinton R. Wermers, who had made the ultimate sacrifice at age 33 leaving a wife and three daughters behind in Florida.
Cindi asked me to check on Lt. Wermers' grave, and it turns out that he was buried not far from my father, just one section (59) over. I was honored to spend a moment there last Christmas, and afterwards I sent a photo to Cindi to let her know that I had kept my word.
A few days ago, Cindi sent me the photograph mentioned above and another of the flowers she orders and has placed at the cemetery every Memorial Day. Cindi said:
"Clinton has a beautiful family of all girls! He would be so proud of them all. I look at them and just think what they are missing and what Clinton is missing, I posted their picture on Facebook too, with Clinton's marker, I wanted everyone to see how his girls are growing. The youngest was born 3 months after he died, he never knew the baby would be another girl!"
Cindi and I are connected in more ways than one. She shared with me some of her family's story including many hardships that occurred around the same time as Clinton's death. Neither of us, Cindi nor I, were lucky enough to have children, but we were each more than blessed to have siblings and siblings-in-law who did.
I understand well what it is to love deeply your nieces and nephews. I have three and four, respectively, and I know why her nephew is always on Cindi's mind, and will always remain in her heart. I held each of mine in my arms within days of their birth, and I can't imagine this world without them.
On this Memorial Day I think especially of my father, as always, and Lt. Wermers. May they rest in peace. I thank them for their service.