Friday, August 9, 2013

Celebration and Duty and Healing

Vietnam Veterans Memorial Chapel
I was one of the generation which found the rituals of our parents no longer valid. We are the Vietnam Generation. How sad our lives should be defined by a war. Some of us went to war and some of us went to war against war. A lot of us in our way questioned the older generation and its wars and rituals. And now we are that older generation. Many of those who fought in Vietnam and survived their tours of duty are now dying because of exposure to Agent Orange. It is bringing us all to places we thought in our youth we would never be.

Friends and clouds gathering

We celebrated the life of Steven Ryan Oliver on what would have been his birthday. Steve would have been the first to tell you he did not want a funeral. He was a Buddhist and a Vietnam Veteran. No doubt he faced the possibility of a death in a nameless jungle in a country we all did not know existed until our friends started vanishing into it. Just another missing in action. But he returned and became an integral part of the communities where he lived. The hole he has left in the community here, his last, has to be healed. It is for that community, his widow, Janet Graham Oliver, decided to have a ceremony. No not a funeral. Our generation does not do funerals really.

Jackie, Sally, Danny and Julia Margaret
All friends
In reflection
We are re-inventing the rituals we cast out because they no longer fit us. I helped my best friend, Jan, deal with this nebulous task of opening an opportunity for friends and family to gather and recognize a life lived in our midst. As President Abraham Lincoln said at Gettysburg, "It is all together fitting and proper that we should do this."

The valley and mountains we love

We chose to call this a celebration of life. We chose the Vietnam Veterans Memorial because it is an Angel Fire landmark which was important to Steve and which we all of our generation connect to in our way. Such rituals, I have come to conclude, are not so much about the one not here. He has moved on. It is about those of us which live on. It is about the community and healing it. About giving us all a sense of having done our duty to them and to ourselves: whether it is building a monument, planting a tree, erecting a flag, holding a funeral, releasing a balloon or just sitting on a hill top and sharing stories and a few tears.

The MIA flag was oddly still on a windy summit

And as our celebration ended the gathering clouds became pouring rain and gave a hope of renewal to our parched valley which Steve loved so much.

Vietnam Veterans Memorial and approaching storm


  1. This is such a beautiful description of the celebration of Steve`s life. I love that you intermingled your thoughts of the past with the present reminding us of a time when we protested, when we sang with Joan Baez, when we were, as the young generation, the despair of the old; how our own aging was something way down the road and not something to be thought about then and how now that we are older we have set our own ways of doing things whilst still retaining an element of tradition.

    I wish Steve eternal peace free from pain and suffering. His spirit is at rest and yes, a celebration if life brings peace to those left to continue this sometimes, arduous journey. I wish blessings for Jan and for you who has helped and continues to be at her side as she comes to terms with her husband's release.

    1. Your comment, Bee, brought tears to my eyes. Even with the miles and countries that separate us we are in so many ways fellow travelers.

      Thank you for taking the time to express your thoughts.

    2. I did not intend to bring tears to your eyes - it is what and how I feel but we are indeed, fellow travellers. No thanks needed! I feel if we lived near each other, we would be firm friends.

      Sometimes we come across people with whom we share a bond even though we have never met face to face. We very soon know who those people are. We knew we were soul sisters very soon after coming into each others lives on 360. Your avatar was a parrot and mine was a bathrobe and we did not know we were following each other. We lost who we thought was the third soul sister somewhere along the way and only she knows why.

      You are blessed.

  2. And the photographs are beautiful.


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