Once upon a very bad day incountry (8-27-70) that only changed
his life forever, my husband, Joe, was on patrol with another Corpsman
and beloved comrade, Michael Kempel. Mike was killed on this day.
Many years later on another bad day, Joe set out from our home, walking.
After many miles with no particular direction, overwhelmed by memories
and irrational thoughts, he crossed a desert wash filled with tall
grasses. Looking down as he passed, he saw a pair of broken glasses
similar to Mike’s that day, and found a sense of calm come over him.
He continued to walk many more miles to the Phoenix VA Hospital to
commit himself to the PTSD program. I was at home, not knowing where
he’d gone (only that he’d been gone for hours), attempting to restore
some order and calm to our home. There was a moment I remember praying
to Mike, asking him to guide Joe if he could. Months later as we talked
about this day, we discovered the time was the same for both events.
in the bush...
I've never been
able to say how
when I just know...
in only a moment...you know, one of those
miniature lifetimes that pass in times of duress
He was there and took me by surprise;
I remember saying aloud, "oh, it's you,"
as I wiped at the stove, focused on you
and everything...crying...and knew someone was there;
it was only fleeting...no messages...just an awareness of visitation
as he rifled the hem of my old housedress.
He's been there before, but not without you,
when we've cried as you remembered, and he enveloped us.
Haven't you felt him close us in, whooshing down to a tiny spot
in eternity where there is nothing but grief for his passing?
I know we're in the heart of him then as we cry;
expanding to come back and come back (and come back).
So...seeming to know him so well, I didn't think it would be
too much, that awful day, to beg him to go with you,
and find a way to show you he was there
like he had with me;
And I thought he hadn't heard me,
maybe couldn't or didn't agree,
who knows what the constraints of their missions require?
But seems he did, after all,
and the time was right for you to tell me.
Thank you, both,
it somehow helps when I know
what I knew...
Michael Kempel Memorial
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