Vietnam Memorial Wall at Eagle’s Healing Nest (7/2016)
July has been a month of incredible opportunities for me to see what it truly means to be of service to another.
Earlier this month, I was given the great honor to be able to speak with some of America’s greatest – our Veterans. I visited the Travelling Vietnam Memorial Wall that was erected on the property of the Eagle’s Healing Nest, in a the small town of Sauk Centre, Minnesota, (which is by the way, also the boyhood home of Nobel Prize winning author, Sinclair Lewis).
To run my hand across the thousands of names on that wall was a true spiritual experience for me. They are not just names, but the spirits of our country’s soldiers who went to war because they were called to action by the United States of America. They did not have a choice at that time because they were required to serve due to the draft. Think about that, many did not raise up their hands and say “I want to go”, instead they took their patriotic duty seriously and marched forward into a war that many at home disagreed with. They came home to anger and hatred, being spit upon and called names that cut them to the core.
The Eagle’s Healing Nest is an organization for veterans to find respite and healing outside of institutions. These are our nation’s soldiers who are finding a place to call home for weeks or months, as they learn to heal from the psychological wounds from war. These are the men and women who put their lives on the line because they wanted to be of service to our country. The people who began this non-profit did not do it for fame or fortune, but to be of service to our veterans. Founder, Melony Butler, finds purpose and joy by helping out each and every veteran who comes to the Nest.
This weekend, I was able to witness another group of people coming together to be of service. My friend Jill Stephenson (www.iamjillstephenson.com), is Army Ranger Benjamin Kopp’s mother. On July 10th, 2009, Ben saved six of his fellow soldiers before getting shot in his leg by a sniper, while serving in Afghanistan. Ben died from his injuries eight days later. Ben gave the greatest sacrifice, his life, while being in service to his brothers’ whose lives he saved. Ben is a hero, and so is his mom.
Jill Stephenson and son Benjamin Kopp
Jill has been in service since the day Ben was declared brain-dead at Walter Reed hospital seven years ago. She followed Ben’s wishes and had his organs and tissues donated to either “save or enhance the lives of over sixty people”. His twenty-one year old heart continues to beat strongly in the body of a woman in Illinois.
Jill also hosts the Ben Kopp Memorial Ride every year in July with the service of H.O.O.A.H.(www.hooahinc.org), Helping Out Our American Heroes. This event raises thousands of dollars each year to go to organizations that directly touch the lives of veterans in need.
I have learned in my time spent with Jill over the past year or so, what being a part of an elite military community is about. It is all about service to one another. I have seen grown men cry, hug, laugh, and reach out a hand to help another who is struggling. I have heard testimony from so many of our soldiers who talk about the isolation and nightmares they come home to. I have seen the nervous looks, the constant fidgeting and moving around to burn off the nervous energy that their minds have not yet been able to release from their time spent in constant high alert. Yet, they reach out to one another to be of service in whatever way they can because it gives them purpose and that sense of purpose provides healing for the giver and the receiver.
Yesterday, I saw one more act of being of service. My 92-year-old mother accompanied a good friend to go see her friend’s grown child who had been hospitalized in Intensive Care last week. The situation is not an easy one for either the mother or her son. The mother has taken care of her child for the past sixty-six years, and now she is watching the deterioration of his health and wondering if she is going to outlive her child.
My mother Ruth with her great-grandchild, Olive (7/2016)
My mother went to be of service to her friend. She knew there was not much she could do but just be with her friend. To be a support, an ear to listen, just someone who would stand beside this grieving mother to flow comfort and love to her. My mom is of service because she understands what it is like to lose a child and does not want to see her friend go through that same experience.
At 92 years old, my mom found a sense of purpose for those few hours with her friend. She could forget her own failing body and mind, while she tended to someone who needed her quiet counsel and support.
I slept and I dreamed that life is all joy. I woke and I saw that life is all service. I served and I saw that service is joy.
What is one thing you can do today, that is of service to another? Is there a co-worker that needs a little help? Is there a family member who could use a hug? Is there a stranger on the street or in the store, who could use a genuine smile?
I have recently released the Second Edition of my book, The Mourning’s Light: Life After Child Loss. I have had many people reach out to me to let me know how much this book has made a positive impact on their grief journey. The stories transcend beyond child loss and are applicable to anyone who has experienced the death of a loved on. It is available on Amazon at this time in both paperback and Kindle versions. Please order your Second Edition copy today!