We’re against the next war, too…

Someone at work told me about this bumper sticker yesterday: “I’m against the next war, too”.  I can’t remember who shared this with me.  I should really write this stuff down.

I have one pair of Owen’s shoes, still sitting in his closet upstairs, the pair he wore most often before the last pair.  The last pair of shoes Owen wore, were labeled as “biohazards” by our county coroner’s office.  Nothing he was wearing when his body was found, was returned to us, his family.  Biohazards, all, and they were destroyed. 

But, we were given the contents of his pockets at the funeral home.  Before they handed over the brown paper bag to me, Owen’s belongings still wet with the mud and moisture of the River (yes, five days later), I was required to sign for the contents.  I signed. 

I laughed the laugh of a bereaved mother, receiving the last tangible evidence of her son’s presence in this world – the particular list of contents on the official document was the cause of my awkward, tragic laughter.  (I still have the bag with the case number written in black ink, and the contents, which I dried out on our dining room table for days.)  I voiced my cynical comment there in the lobby of the funeral home, and Anna and I took hold of one another, me carrying the brown paper bag, Anna carrying Owen’s remains wrapped in a velvet burgundy bag, in which the box of Owen’s ashes were encased.

We met Nat on the lawn.  He was standing there in the sun, thinking and seeing things we can’t imagine.  (I think I’ve written about this before, but I can’t remember.  Such is the case, with the physical manifestations of bereavement.  Unfortunately, you may recognize this illustration someday.)  The day before, Nat had viewed his brother’s body, four days after he was retrieved from the waters of the Petaluma River.  Not a pretty site.  For Nat, a necessary one. 

We were all warned of what might happen.  Nat was required to sign a waiver that he would not engage in legal proceedings if he suffered life-altering consequences of the viewing; and no one, but Nat will ever know what he saw or how it has manifested itself in his consciousness.  Nat holds that day, those moments, and we all hope and pray that he can find a container for his pain.  If he continues to carry it, face-front, and alone, well…who knows.  I would carry it for him, if he would let me.  He won’t.  He can’t.  That day, was between him and Caspar.

When we got into the car on the afternoon of Owen’s cremation, Thursday, June 7, 2007, (the day I signed for Owen’s pocket contents and Anna carried his remains), Nat buckled Owen’s ashes, inside a box, inside a velvet burgundy bag into the seatbelt.  He had done so when Owen was a little kid, and did so again, with Owen as a memory.  The seatbelt represented a safety zone, a place we all needed so desperately. 

Lea posted a video yesterday, that reminded me of Owen’s shoes.  (See the video she posted here:  http://youtube.com/watch?v=NolEYfzj0Vo related to soldiers killed in Iraq, or go to her blog here: http://leakelley.wordpress.com.)  Her post also reminded me of the big picture of loss, the one that’s seen more often – by more, as it’s a picture having a political message, as well as a personal one.

So many intermingling thoughts are flashing before my eyes tonight, it’s hard to write a coherent post.  (Not unusual to frequent readers here at mysteryoriley.)  I’ve got my handwritten notes by my side, and my chaotic mind is reeling, in real time.  Where do I start?  These many words into it, I’m not starting, I’m continuing…

On then, to war.  At Lea’s blog, this is what I commented: “War memorials hit thousands of people imagining the worst. Thank you for honoring the families who’ve lost their kin to a senseless war. Aren’t all wars senseless? Let us have no more, whether on the soil of foreign countries, or in our own neighborhoods.”  Owen was killed in our own neighborhood.  A war of a different color.  Not dissimilar, though.  Senseless, indeed.

Shoes.  (Disjointed, again, indulge me.)  Walk a mile in mine, in ours, in Owen’s.  Walk one step down our front stairs.  Walk down our gravel driveway.  Walk past the vacant lot where the deer come to feast in the afternoons.  Walk into Boulevard Cinemas where Owen worked, and spent his last evening watching a movie.  Walk…just freakin’ walk, and talk.  Talk to your coworkers, your family, your friends, and your neighbors.

Moving into the past, and the future…here’s a link to Martin Luther King, Jr’s, “Letter from a Birmingham Jail” – my brother and I were born in Birmingham, Alabama, and so were our parents.  The Civil Rights Movement is a part of our collective memory, and Emmitt (my brother) and I can recall the day we watched the news of MLK’s assassination.  As young as we were, we were for the cause,  but against that war, and the next war, too…

If you care to read for a bit, remember that time has passed, and history has taken up some space:  http://www.africa.upenn.edu/Articles_Gen/Letter_Birmingham.html

Many wars have been waged, many lost.  Those won, have rarely proved out the intent, and less – the cost.  The cost can be calculated on spreadsheets manipulated by governmental dweebs paid at a minimal wage.  The true cost can’t be calculated.  No trade value can be attributed to a human life, no matter how hard they try.  We don’t try.  We grieve.

I visited some bulletin posts tonight on myspace, posted by people with whom Owen worked and socialized.  Young, was the prominent adjective I observed.  Young and inexperienced.  But, one caught my interest.  The video was posted by the same young woman who claimed the 4th star of the Big Dipper as “Owen’s star”.   And, so, I post tonight’s video because I can’t avoid it.  I can only address it as relevant, and hopeful.

Video for the night:  Yes, We Can, Barack Obama (I have to ignore the beautiful people as celebrities, and acknowledge them only as people)



~ by Linda on March 29, 2008.

6 Responses to “We’re against the next war, too…”

  1. Linda, Sending Love & Understanding Your Way Girlfriend. TEARS, I have one of those bags also, sunglasses, (just like Shane, 1 cig., 1 dollar bill, speeding tickets from that morning) I will treasure that bag forever. His song was Last dollar country not sure thats the name, but i listen all the time , its my BOY, out & out. I planted chickens in the toes of his workboots. 42 weeks ago todat at 10:50. I feel Your Pain & You Are So Always In my HEART. LOVE , SANDY

  2. Again, you have taken the time to demonstrate that your pain, our pain, all pain is Universal. No matter the war, the battle, there is no “Trade Value” .
    There is nothing that will compensate the loss of our young, our innocence, or our humanity.
    Thank you, Linda K.
    Thank you for transcending your pain so that we may recognize our own.

  3. The ‘shoes’ slipped under my 32 year-old wall of defenses, Linda.
    Yes – I heard the collective words and pain of the the loss of lives during this current war and I abhor the thought of war in any country/culture/town; but that single noun of ‘shoes’ in your post and their meaning took my breath away. I held onto our ‘brown bag’ from our tragedy with out looking inside for about 2 years. I had my husband look into the bag just to say what the items were. Put it away into a dresser that belonged to that person which was stored in my garage. I always felt that eventually I would find the right time to take those things out to look at when it was less painful. I divorced (not long after the tragedy) and had the roof repaired to sell the house. when I came back to check on the work before paying the guys – realized that they had broken the lock to my garage where I still had some things stored and they had emptied the contents of the bag onto a worktable and stolen the Boots he had worn! I was livid and for the first time ever in my life realized that I held a rage deep enough to drown in. It was worse that the original rage of injustice. I tracked down that creep, faced him in his own house and refused to pay any of the crew & I was not leaving the premises until gave me those boots. he lied about not having them/ then realized i truly was not going to back down and he finally went to get them — mouthing off about a ‘stupid pair of old boots’ I tore into him verbally — leting him know gory details about those boots and that i hope he would never forget what had happened to the last person who had worn those boots. then at my old house i carefully put them back into the same brown bag they had been in and carefully placed the other items back in there after finally taking a quiet-painful-reality look at the items. That bag of old boots ‘shoes’ sit in my attic today, although at some point I finally showed them to my mother and we did let go of the clothing items – but not the boots. namaste —

  4. Dear all, What is it about shoes, that they hit us in the gut? Protection, maybe? That walking our paths requires some help, some way to keep us from hurting while we’re here? I don’t know, but they seem to represent a common reminder of those people we lost. I’m wondering about shoes more and more. I look at my own differently now. I walk in them with intent. I think that’s what we see when we find our loved ones shoes. Intent. And, it hurts. L.

  5. Linda: Just when I think your words cannot be more poignant, they are more poignant still. I have never heard your story of signing for the bag, and Anna carrying Owen’s ashes, and Nate strapping them in. (I almost lost it on that one. So tender and protective.) How much can a person endure? We have yet to know, I guess.
    Shoes-I spoke of them at my dad’s funeral. It had to do with how tall he was (6’4″), and that he wore size 13 shoes. Those big shoes always defined him for me, and no one else will ever be able to fill them. (Funny how shoes are so significant.)
    All the other stories left in the comments were touching as well.
    Just wanted you to know that on the nights you think you’re incoherent, you are touching the depths of my soul-Love you lady, Lonnette

  6. Buckling up a seatbelt is such a loving gesture. Your tale reminds me clearly of taking each of my children home for the first time, and buckling up their tiny car seat to face the big wide world.

    Such senseless loss in crime and war. And for every loss, a grieving family.

    As I write today, the British Army is holed up on the airport outside Basra (protecting what, exactly?) whilst carnage plays out within the city.

    In London, we don’t have many war memorials for dead Iraqis. And I’m not sure we have enough space or stone to carve the names on.

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