The dream is real… and I love you

Love, Steve

This is a story of encouragement and dreams alive and gratitude, but I need to take you down into the dirty with me before we climb back out and see the light.

I woke up this morning with three hours of sleep and money on my mind. When I’m overwhelmed, I pray first and then get to work on details. But the details today turned into another day of figuring out just how I’m going to stretch the checking account to pay property taxes due in a few weeks. This is always where my frustration starts to build.

I don’t know if every other non-profit in this city receives a break on property taxes, but we don’t. I do know there is an application process in place which goes before the city council and is rarely denied. I applied for a partial exemption from property taxes three years ago and my application was tossed. Not denied,simply tossed out and not heard before the council because one city council member doesn’t like me or what I do. I know this to be true because she rudely dismissed me and my vision for LZ-Grace in front of my daughter and mother across a meeting table, and a few months later had my application for property tax partial exemption removed from the city council agenda moments before I was to present my case. Apparently, I can house and feed farm-workers who help farm the land, but welcoming, feeding and nurturing combat SOF warriors as they decompress from war and trauma on ARP farmland was out of line. And don’t get me wrong, I don’ object to paying taxes. I object to unfairness and hidden agendas. I did have my say in front of council in 2015, but to no avail. Attorneys I reached out to afterward told me to keep my head down, my mouth shut and pay. And not to bother appealing the “toss out” or request tax exemption again because the city’s attorneys and Henley will break me.

Fair enough, except I’m me and a Frogman’s widow and that’s not how I get broken. 

Most importantly, God didn’t see it quite the way the attorneys did and so each and every six months when I have to scramble to come up with nearly $7K now, I do. And we farm. Horses and hops and hope and organic vegetables that we harvest and eat. We farm and we play and we rest and we pray and we discover healing and we speak life into loss and we love. On ARP farmland.

I know I shouldn’t be, but I’m a little bitter about entrenched politicians and their attitudes. I’m working on it. 

I did take a moment to thank God for the generous souls who have donated funds, stood fast in prayer and supplied grants to ensure that we continue to grow and serve. The dream is real because the entire family stepped up, the community around us put on their work boots, an Architect, Scouts and Dominion VA Power folks, Veterans and Active Duty, Firefighters, Police Officers, Deputy Sheriff’s, Realtors and neighbors surrounded us with help and dedication and grace. Amen.

Then I climbed back down into my pity pot and sloshed around, cried, worried, paid more attention to interruptions then details, got snappy with the dogs, irritated with my healing broken leg and ended up chucking all my work aside to mindlessly scroll through Facebook.

This is where He finds me.

Memories with photos and write ups from four years ago today. On November 16, 2014, 253 people joined me and my family for the Dedication and Blessing of LZ-Grace. The Patriot Guard arrived with American Flags in all their glory, esteemed speakers flew in from across the country and neighboring states to speak. Music played. The choir sang. The Warriors Fire-Pit, built by an Eagle Scout and his Troop, was lit for the first time. Prayers were said. Brothers reunited. On that day, five months after we moved in, most of the buildings were still in disrepair, the barn was empty, the fences were falling down, the weeds were out of control, and I had no earthly idea how I was going to pay for all that needed to be done and take care of our warriors, but none of that mattered because we all gathered for a most extraordinary day of hope and vision and life spoken into this sacred land.

As of today, November 16, 2018 – exactly four years from the Dedication and Blessing and 3.5 years since we opened our doors – we have welcomed 3,063 souls to the healing peace of LZ-Grace (1,098 individuals on site, 98 individuals remotely and 1,876 families and groups).

It was hard, hard work and painful lessons, but we ended most days with joy. Frustration and bitterness have no place in these blessings.

Perhaps someday I’ll return to the city, new application in hand and be granted relief, but for today, I’ll stand in gratitude for the blessings that we’ve been given and let God  work out the details with politicians who can dislike me and strong arm me, but have no say so over peace and grace and precious souls who come here – to the farm – as visitors and leave as beloved family.

Like a child being gently disciplined, I am reminded this morning that while paying the bills on time and keeping track of numbers is necessary, it is not my most important concern. My job is to be a good steward of and nurture the most fundamental part of our mission: peace and renewal for an individual’s body,mind, soul and spirit. To be a witness to these changes in individuals, up close and in myriad ways, is miraculous. Each person we meet here and talk to remotely brings an experience that encourages and teaches. We are still at war,but for a time – at a home away from home – on a farm – a life is saved, a marriage strengthens, a family blossoms, a career stays on course or a supported transition takes flight. 

Miraculous is the only solid form of measurement we need.

And this note on the fridge. Because the dream is real…and I love you. 

This is God’s Vision. Human hands can not shut it down.

God’s Vision

One Red Maple (by Sheri Bukowski)

Red MapleYears ago my parents moved to the country and bought a little farm. 17 acres…trails…ponds…horses… grass.
It was a place of respite, a place my father found peace during and after 32 years of military service. He went to work remodeling, building, designing and mowing, all with the dream in mind of having his Brothers (his team guys) and their families come WHENEVER they wanted simply to rest from the world. When he went to plant the beds in front of the house he decided he wanted a huge red maple but there were none anywhere. My parents drove hours and hours looking for a nursery for this ONE baby red maple to grow in the front yard.

When he died- leaving piles of wood, flooring, his brand new jumping horse and a thousand little dreams unfinished – my mom and I would look at that tree and laugh. “At least he got to plant the damn tree.”

Nearly four years have gone by and the vision to build a retreat for our Brothers in service grew in my mother’s heart. And it grew and it grew, and things started to happen. We found a property further south and looked at it- it was gorgeous and out front was a statue of St. Francis. The plantation wasn’t available yet but we knew St. Francis was a sign. He was once a warrior who devoted his life to the service of his brothers. Who found rest and Peace, and God … outdoors, in nature, protecting every living thing.

Two years went by and with the statistic of 24 Veteran suicides a day, we were feeling the weight of this need. When we LEAST expected it, we happened upon a property that fit EVERY SINGLE NEED we had for this vision. It had been reduced from $2.1 Million to $995,000. Already it looked promising and as we toured the 35 acres of gorgeous oak, pine, ornamental pear trees, standing at the end of the line, as if leading an army, was this one red maple tree. About the size my dad’s tree would have been if he were alive. The only one in sight. The only one in over 38 acres around us and we knew.
We just knew.
From that point every single corner we turned was another sign – even a woodworking room with lumber ready for rebuilding- as if he picked up the pile from our old house and dropped it off at the new place just so we felt at home.

Oh yes, and there in the back of the property, hidden in clover, looking at the muck of our back bay, a small statue of St. Francis looked on, minus an arm and with a gape in his core. It was a grotesque coincidence, that our dream was to help veterans regroup and regain life after 13 years at war and here was this man, a veteran warrior, with a hole in his heart, just needing a hand. St Francis

I started to weep.

We simply could not afford this on our own. We called family, our friends called friends and long story short – between an amazing guy in Beverly Hills, a Brother Frogman and world renowned star,  and a few other divinely set-up people, within DAYS our offer was on the table and ACCEPTED.

Within hours we had $100,000 for our deposit and the contract was signed but there was one more condition – we come up with $90,000 more to put down not because they were trying to deter us but simply because of regulations. So – here we are – 10 days from closing and we are in need of oh you know, just an extra 100K.

We believe this is supposed to happen and we have no idea how. It’s brought a community of people together already which I believe is a miracle in itself, but we need more. So friends, please pray. Please share with those who have a heart for our Veterans, and for this dream. Please give if that’s what you can do. And if you have insight, vision, thoughts, ideas, let us know! It’s just the beginning and we need all the chutzpah we can get.

#LZGrace #OneRedMaple #Wehealtheliving

Please donate here: http://www.gofundme.com/91nmbk

LZG_logo HR

Sheri L. Bukowski © All rights reserved

 

LZ-Grace Veterans Retreat – We Heal The Living

Knowing freedom is to free someone else.

I’ve come to know that where there is damage and pain there is also truth to be found. And when one of us somehow finds our way out of the abyss or the tunnel or the woods, we need to share our way out or through.

Everything comes with risk. But if you’ve lived through war and find your way home to Landing Zone Grace (LZ-Grace Veterans Retreat) there is not one thing you cannot overcome and achieve.

When we release what we’ve lived through and find connection with other souls, we are inspired to live on, to use our scars as road maps, to reignite a marriage, to find safety again with family and friends and to pass our strength and experience forward to all the world.

Please consider supporting LZ-Grace Veterans Retreat. Our mission is service and our immediate needs are funding and an existing site so we can begin serving our Warriors as they come home in 2014.

Find out more about me and my mission to serve our Special Forces Warriors and their families here:

NRANews.Com Veterans Day Special Interview with Cam & Company

BBS Radio Interview with Leader of the Pack Susan Herbert and Mark German. Find them at http://www.H4Hero.com

Listen Here:

Blogs of War Special Feature

http://blogsofwar.com/2013/09/12/lynnette-bukowski-landing-zone-grace-veterans-retreat-preparing-special-forces-personnel-and-their-families-for-life-after-war/

Lynnette Bukowski © 2013 All Rights Reserved.

For more information, please visit http://www.lz-grace.com or email me at lynnette@lz-grace.com

Twitter: @BukowskiLynn and @LZ_Grace

Make a Promise – Pass it On

“We are not taught to be thinkers, but reflectors of our culture. Let’s teach our children to be thinkers.” ~Fresco

My friend, Brenda, showed up in my dreams last night seriously concerned about the state of the World and the disease of divisiveness infecting our youth.  I agreed with her but argued that I alone cannot change the world. Her response: Nonsense. She’s a force to be reckoned with, even in spirit. 

There is a tremendous call right now for adults across the globe to step up and teach the children that they do not need to continue the legacy of hate and division that today’s leaders perpetuate.

This is a story about a promise I made and my memory of Brenda and all she held dear. It seems especially important to share it again as one example of how each of us can start where we are and do what we can. The book I’ve chosen again this year for the “older” kids on my list is Powerful Peace: A Navy SEAL’s Lessons in Peace from a Lifetime at War. Copies of the book can be purchased at all the normal places, but signed copies are available through http://www.powerfulpeace.net. Also visit http://www.sealofpeace.com and help us make a dent in the world toward Peace.

lovely bookTwelve hours before Brenda died she called to tell me she was in Heaven.

“You’re there now?” I asked, slightly distracted with scissors in one hand, tape in the other. I tucked the phone between my ear and shoulder thinking I’d continue to wrap Christmas presents while we bantered about the gorgeous male nurses who administered Chemotherapy in Colorado Springs Medical Center. The young men were a favorite subject for Brenda and the tales she weaved were hysterical.

A weak, throaty laugh echoed through the phone, “I do believe I am.”

The words, although breathless, hung in the air like a solemn, heavy mist. I dropped the wrapping paraphernalia, held the phone tight against my ear and walked outside to our deck. For just a moment, I tilted my head and looked into the cloudless aqua blue sky – a mirrored reflection of the water – expecting to see my dear friend waving. “Hey…” I began, stumbling over my thoughts, “everything okay today?”

“Picture this,” she began, “I’m tucked into an over-sized arm chair by a big picture window watching fat white snowflakes silently fall from the sky. Next to me is a fire blazing in a huge stone fireplace and I’m holding a steaming mug of that jasmine tea you sent me and…” she paused, took a short breath, “I’m surrounded by books and books and books.”

“Oh, it really is heaven, Bren,” I closed my eyes against the wheezy softness of her voice. Just last week her voice had been robust and full of laughter. The tropical paradise before me disappeared and I imagined I was right there with her.

“I’m choosing books for my kids,” she sighed, “well…the proprietor is choosing books; I’m just describing the children. I can’t seem to find my strength today. But I called… I called now because I need to ask you to promise…” The words faded between us.

Brenda’s kids were not actually her kids. Rather, they were her friends’ kids, at last count –18 in all — including mine, from ages 2 to 17. Each year at Christmas and on respective birthdays and graduations, each child would receive an age appropriate, award-winning book with Brenda’s personalized inscription. It was in my kitchen that she’d thought up this tradition. “Books,” she beamed, “are the doorways to the world!” I could picture her, eight years earlier, her smile lighting the room. Now, the enormity of her courage – laced with Chemo, fighting cancer, yet still concerned about her kids – it bruised my soul.

I cleared the sob from my throat, “Brenda, whatever favor you need, consider it done.”

“Lynn, I can’t tell you what the favor is just now. There are too many parts, but I’ll have Michael send it to you in an email.”

“Okay…” I could hear the whine in my voice and willed it away, “but how will I know what….”

“You’ll know,” she interrupted, a slip in comportment so foreign for Brenda that it stunned me.

A fear of imminent loss closed around me like a dark tunnel blocking the sun. I wanted to fight with her, chase the seriousness from her voice and words. Hadn’t we talked endless hours over the last eight months about her strength, her will to live, her young age of 60 and the importance, or lack thereof, of breasts? What about the pros and cons of shopping for new breasts and the fun she’d have interviewing men on the perfect size and shape? Our weekly phone conversations always included the future, her pending visit to our home on Sunset Beach in Oahu as soon as she had the strength to travel. I wanted to scream at her, “Buy the ticket now, Brenda!” but the words stuck in my throat.

“Hey beach broad… you there?” This was her new tag name for me and hearing the wheezy voice attempt humor made me laugh.

“I’m here. I’m here… just rolling over to tan the other side,” I choked out, “So… what are you reading?” This was always the absolute second question of every conversation.

“Reading?” she sighed audibly, “Everything I possibly can.” A long, silent pause filled the phone line and seemed to stop the breeze. “I have to go now,” she continued, breathless, with just a slight laugh that felt like a kiss against my ear, “I’m on someone else’s phone, and the angels are restless. Plus,” she coughed, “God invited me to dinner and I have to decide what I’m going to wear.”

“Funny. Sticking with the theme of the day, I see. I love you, Bren. Hey…I’ll call you tomorrow morning… see how that dinner date went.”

“Yeah,” she laughed, sweet, full, hearty; the sound of Brenda, “Love you too.”

beach-sunsetI held the phone close to my chest and let the dial tone drone into a maddening beep. Even then, I was reluctant to disconnect, to give in to the sense that I would never speak with my lovely friend again. Instead, I sat down on the steps with my memories.

On the day we met, I was busy corralling and cajoling four young children and a baby at a fast-food restaurant. Brenda was at the table next to us reading Ralph Waldo Emerson Essays. The fourth or fifth time I apologized for the noise level, Brenda got up from her table and sat down with us. She spoke very quietly until one by one; each child – even the baby – stopped chattering, and sat captivated as she recited a Hans Christian Anderson story.

Days later our home became her second home and she visited often at odd hours. We talked books, analyzed the work of the masters, laughed over love scenes. Her weakness was a good romance novel, but she grew serious when she talked about the importance of children knowing the magic of sitting still with a story and letting their imaginations soar. She loved all of our children, but paid special attention to our foster kids and spent endless hours engaging them in conversations about books or organizing special reading days where she would sit with them in a circle and read with all the gusto of a skilled actress. When those children left our home, Brenda made sure each of them had their very own book to take on their journeys.

We were unlikely friends, Brenda and I. I was a military wife, a young mother, a struggling author, full of creative energy and love and not much else. Brenda was nineteen years my senior, held a PhD in Philosophy and Education and Masters’ Degrees in Computer Technology, Theology and Mathematics. She was also the mother of a grown son and the widow of a Navy pilot who took his own life.

I was fascinated with Brenda, but I often felt inadequate as a friend. In quiet moments, usually over wine, I would allude to our differences. What did she see in me? The first time I broached the subject she waved her hand through the air and referred to her varied degrees as an addictive hobby. She was philosophical with the sorrow aspect, stating simply that our lives are pre-planned and this was her lot. “You teach me about being real and how to hurt and how to love. Everything else is pointless,” she announced. After that one speech, the subject was off limits. Then she stared at me, straight on, with serious, thoughtful eyes and asked me what book I was reading.

This was our glue then and now: books, words, and children.

I sat on the porch step until the orange ball of sun set and the ocean glittered into the night.

When the phone rang at 4:00 AM the next morning, Michael, Brenda’s son, apologized for the early hour and went on to explain that his mother insisted I be the first one he called. Through my tears, I told him how sorry I was and asked if he needed anything, but the conversation was blurry and surreal. Just before he hung up he said, “Check your email.”

This is what it said:
My dearest friend, the promise I asked of you has to do with the long document attached to this email. Here it is: please continue sending books to my kids. I’ve written a little something for each year, for each child, with all the pertinent birth date information and addresses, but please find more children to add each year. Everyone at age 18 or upon graduation from high school should receive Dr. Seuss’, “Oh! The Places You Will Go!” Thank you, forever.
P.S. my dinner date was heavenly. God says hi. All my love, Bren.

Most of the original kids are grown now, but I continue to keep my promise and send books to a growing special list of children each year.

In loving memory, pass it on. children-reading-1940

by Lynnette Bukowski
© 2000 (revised 2013)

Make a Promise – Pass it On

In special honor of my friend, Brenda’s earth birthday, I am reposting this story about a promise I’ve made and my memory of her and all she held dear. There is a tremendous call right now for youth and adults across the globe to step up and teach our world’s children that they are all significant and loved. The book I’ve chosen this year for the “older” kids on my list is Powerful Peace: A Navy SEAL’s Lessons in Peace from a Lifetime at War. Copies of the book can be purchased at all the normal places, but signed copies are available through http://powerfulpeace.net

Our children are our future. They deserve a chance at Peace.

Twelve hours before Brenda died she called to tell me she was in Heaven.

“You’re there now?” I asked, slightly distracted with scissors in one hand, tape in the other. I tucked the phone between my ear and shoulder thinking I’d continue to wrap Christmas presents while we bantered about the gorgeous male nurses who administered Chemotherapy in Colorado Springs Medical Center. The young men were a favorite subject for Brenda and the tales she weaved were hysterical. A weak, throaty laugh echoed through the phone, “I do believe I am.”

The words, although breathless, hung in the air like a solemn, heavy mist. I dropped the wrapping paraphernalia, held the phone tight against my ear and walked outside to our deck. For just a moment, I tilted my head and looked into the cloudless aqua blue sky – a mirrored reflection of the water – expecting to see my dear friend waving. “Hey…” I began, stumbling over my thoughts, “everything okay today?”

“Picture this,” she began, “I’m tucked into an over-sized arm chair by a big picture window watching fat white snowflakes silently fall from the sky. Next to me is a fire blazing in a huge stone fireplace and I’m holding a steaming mug of that jasmine tea you sent me and…” she paused, took a short breath, “I’m surrounded by books and books and books.”

“Oh, it really is heaven, Bren,” I closed my eyes against the wheezy softness of her voice. Just last week her voice had been robust and full of laughter. The tropical paradise before me disappeared and I imagined I was right there with her.

“I’m choosing books for my kids,” she sighed, “well…the proprietor is choosing books; I’m just describing the children. I can’t seem to find my strength today. But I called… I called now because I need to ask you to promise…” The words faded between us.

Brenda’s kids were not actually her kids. Rather, they were her friends’ kids, at last count –18 in all — including mine, from ages 2 to 17. Each year at Christmas and on respective birthdays, each child would receive an age appropriate, award-winning book with Brenda’s personalized inscription. It was in my kitchen that she’d thought up this tradition. “Books,” she beamed, “are the doorways to the world!” I could picture her, eight years earlier, her smile lighting the room. Now, the enormity of her courage – laced with Chemo, fighting cancer, yet still concerned about her kids – it bruised my soul.
I cleared the sob from my throat, “Brenda, whatever favor you need, consider it done.”

“Lynn, I can’t tell you what the favor is just now. There are too many parts, but I’ll have Michael send it to you in an email.”

“Okay…” I could hear the whine in my voice and willed it away, “but how will I know what….”

“You’ll know,” she interrupted, a slip in comportment so foreign for Brenda that it stunned me.

A fear of imminent loss closed around me like a dark tunnel blocking the sun. I wanted to fight with her, chase the seriousness from her voice and words. Hadn’t we talked endless hours over the last eight months about her strength, her will to live, her young age of 60 and the importance, or lack thereof, of breasts? What about the pros and cons of shopping for new breasts and the fun she’d have interviewing men on the perfect size and shape? Our weekly phone conversations always included the future, her pending visit to our home on Sunset Beach in Oahu as soon as she had the strength to travel. I wanted to scream at her, “Buy the ticket now, Brenda!” but the words stuck in my throat.

“Hey beach broad… you there?” This was her new tag name for me and hearing the wheezy voice attempt humor made me laugh.

“I’m here. I’m here… just rolling over to tan the other side,” I choked out, “So… what are you reading?” This was always the absolute second question of every conversation.

“Reading?” she sighed audibly, “Everything I possibly can.” A long, silent pause filled the phone line and seemed to stop the breeze. “I have to go now,” she continued, breathless, with just a slight laugh that felt like a kiss against my ear, “I’m on someone else’s phone, and the angels are restless. Plus,” she coughed, “God invited me to dinner and I have to decide what I’m going to wear.”

“Funny. Sticking with the theme of the day, I see. I love you, Bren. Hey…I’ll call you tomorrow morning… see how that dinner date went.”

“Yeah,” she laughed, sweet, full, hearty; the sound of Brenda, “Love you too.”

I held the phone close to my chest and let the dial tone drone into a maddening beep. Even then, I was reluctant to disconnect, to give in to the sense that I would never speak with my lovely friend again. Instead, I sat down on the steps with my memories.

On the day we met, I was busy corralling and cajoling four young children and a baby at a fast-food restaurant. Brenda was at the table next to us reading Ralph Waldo Emerson Essays. The fourth or fifth time I apologized for the noise level, Brenda got up from her table and sat down with us. She spoke very quietly until one by one; each child – even the baby – stopped chattering, and sat captivated as she recited a Hans Christian Anderson story.

Days later our home became her second home and she visited often at odd hours. We talked books, analyzed the work of the masters, laughed over love scenes. Her weakness was a good romance novel, but she grew serious when she talked about the importance of children knowing the magic of sitting still with a story and letting their imaginations soar. She loved all of our children, but paid special attention to our foster kids and spent endless hours engaging them in conversations about books or organizing special reading days where she would sit with them in a circle and read with all the gusto of a skilled actress. When those children left our home, Brenda made sure each of them had their very own book to take on their journeys.

We were unlikely friends, Brenda and I. I was a military wife, a young mother, a struggling author, full of creative energy and love and not much else. Brenda was fifteen years my senior, held a PhD in Philosophy and Education and Masters’ Degrees in Computer Technology, Theology and Mathematics. She was also the mother of a grown son and the widow of a military man who took his own life.

I was fascinated with Brenda, but I often felt inadequate as a friend. In quiet moments, usually over wine, I would allude to our differences. What did she see in me? The first time I broached the subject she waved her hand through the air and referred to her varied degrees as an addictive hobby. She was philosophical with the sorrow aspect, stating simply that our lives are preplanned and this was her lot. After that one speech, the subject was off limits. “Pointless,” she would say, and then she stared at me, straight on, with serious, thoughtful eyes and asked me what book I was reading.
This was our glue then and now: books, words, and children.

I sat on the porch step until the orange ball of sun set and the ocean glittered into the night.
When the phone rang at 4:00 AM the next morning, Michael, Brenda’s son, apologized for the early hour and went on to explain that his mother insisted I be the first one he called. Through my tears, I told him how sorry I was and asked if he needed anything, but the conversation was blurry and surreal. Just before he hung up he said, “Check your email.”

This is what it said:
My dearest friend, the promise I asked of you has to do with the long document attached to this email. Here it is: please continue sending books to my kids. I’ve written a little something for each year, for each child, with all the pertinent birth date information and addresses, but please find more children to add each year. Everyone at age 18 or upon graduation from high school should receive Dr. Seuss’, “Oh! The Places You Will Go!” Thank you, forever.
P.S. my dinner date was heavenly. God says hi. All my love, Bren.

Most of the original kids are grown now, but I continue to keep my promise and send books to a growing special list of children each year.

In loving memory, pass it forward.

by Lynnette Bukowski
© 2000

Sharing Strength

 Iron sharpens iron. As one man sharpens another.  (Prov. 27:17)

This is the miracle of human connection: we do not need to be in the same room, the same state, or the same country to reach out our hands and lay bare our hearts and say, I stand with you stunned – in silence and prayer, I will hold your hand, I will share your tears, I will take the impact of your pain as my own and bear it with you. We are all one. I feel this loss because this too is my brother, my child, my beloved. And I will stand with you – the left behind, the living – and share my strength.

Two years ago (tomorrow) the world lost 30 brave men and Bart, a Warrior Dog – all heroes – aboard Extortion 17 in Afghanistan. The families, friends and loved ones of the fallen are scattered across the country and globe and while it is impossible to reach each of them in person or by phone, for the past week entire communities came together to raise funds, show support and share in the grief of loss.

Today, hundreds of people – many who do not even know these men and their families – join virtual hands in support and prayer via Facebook and Twitter to uplift and share strength.

There is such comfort in knowing we are never really alone.

It is a poignant reminder of the first time in my adult life I learned this lesson.

On September 25, 1978 I began my drive to work from Coronado to San Diego.  Half-way across the Coronado Bay Bridge, a perfect 230 feet above water, sun glanced off my windshield and created a tunnel-like view of a small plane as it clipped the underside of a passenger jet and dropped from the sky.  I slammed my foot on the breaks and stepped out. As cars on the bridge screeched to a stop behind me, I stood and watched with horror as the jet banked away, paused, and began a nose down dive.  The sky shrieked wildly until it didn’t.  For one brief moment I imagined the plane was landing, until it hit the earth and exploded into a pluming black cloud.  Movement around me slowed to half speed, then quarter speed, as if the air in the blue sky had thickened with sorrow.

Those of us watching from the bridge began to scream; the sound inhuman, swallowed whole by the eerie howl of a sudden hot wind.  The heat roiled in my stomach and I bent over where I stood and vomited.  A man, a complete stranger, came to me and held my head, smoothed my hair back.  He made kind sounds, non-words that echoed through the blood buzzing in my ears.

I don’t remember the drive to the crash site.  I do remember following my stranger’s silver Mercedes as though it was a lifeline, a reality I needed to stay with.  We parked blocks away, but we felt the heat, even then, as he took my hand.  We ran, or he did.  I stumbled beside him, keeping pace with the sirens, praying, passing stunned people who staggered into the streets.  A wall of heat and smoke stopped us and we stood, useless.

My stranger fell to his knees then, pulling me down with him, crushing my hand to his chest while he wept; long crawling gasping sounds.  We huddled there in the street on our knees, and between sobs he told me that he’d been running late, on his way to the airport to pick up his daughter.  She was 25, working in LA and coming for a visit.  Surely, she’d forgive him for leaving her stranded.  He whispered the last words and I put my face close to his, looked into his eyes and took the full impact of his words.

I felt then like elderly people must feel when they forget who they are, where they are, what shoes are for, when each gesture calls meaning into question, unbuttoning a button, breathing.  I was 20, a mere child, but I forced myself to understand we were taking turns, as people do, in sharing strength.

I learned later that the 727 was carrying more than six tons of fuel, much of it in the wing tanks.  The news reported that from the moment of impact with the Cessna, it took just 17 seconds to transform PSA Flight 182 from a fully functional airliner into a mass of burning wreckage encompassing four city blocks.  The crash destroyed 22 houses in North Park, and killed 7 residents, as well as all 144 people on board the jet and both pilots in the Cessna.

Jeff told me later that he knew his daughter was on the plane the moment he witnessed the impact, but that tending to me and having me with him gave him the strength he needed to “keep the fist out of his gut long enough to know, without a doubt, that he couldn’t save her.”

Jeff and I remained friends from that day on. He was finally able to go home to his daughter in September, 2002.

“Nothing is so strong as gentleness. Nothing is so gentle as true strength.” ~Sales

Aboard Extortion 17 that day were 17 of my husband’s brothers – U.S. Navy SEALs. It is this brotherhood of men and their families who sustain me today as the widow of a veteran Navy SEAL. And I know without a doubt that on August 6, 2011, my husband Steve welcomed all 30 – and Bart – into a brotherhood that lives on in Heaven as a Platoon of Warrior Angels. Such Grace.

There is tenderness in the presence of true strength; it fairly grips the soul and stays long after the moments fade, years I think. Perhaps even a lifetime.

Lynnette Bukowski ©2012

Lynnette Bukowski is a freelance author and artist and the Founder/Director of LZ-Grace (Landing Zone Grace) Veterans Retreat. (www.lz-grace.com)

Rainy Morning Letters #495

golden memoriesIt is the perfect morning to lie in bed and cuddle with the memory of you.  Through the window glass the trees shush, their leaves yielding to clear drops, one after the other, sometimes two together, as though you are watering my heart from your Heaven.

The roof dulls the sound for a moment until it spatters over the eaves and creates blistering drops on the deck, like sizzling bacon.  I think: bacon and three fried eggs and a sliced tomato.  A lazy weekend morning and I serve you one of the few gifts you would accept from me.

At this moment – right now – I feel your solid chest against my back, your right forearm and calloused hand resting on my hip, your knee pushing gently against the back of my thighs.  You are right here.  If I turned, I could lay my head against your shoulder, push my face into your smooth neck and know.  The knowing of nothingness and everything.

My eyes squeeze shut at the ache of pure sadness.  The missing your physical presence makes the windows shudder with a stomping rush of falling rain.  Is this your universal answer to my tears? You were never this dramatic on Earth.

You whisper: Get up and write this down.  I stretch against your memory like a waking child. I say: don’t tell me what to do.

If you were here to make me coffee I would hear the sound of six level scoops.  Water pouring – like this morning rain. The aroma of your love for me would seep into the bedroom like a stealth warrior.

I get up, wander into the kitchen and put six rounded scoops and one-half more, which I know would cause a morning spat.  Why do I so blatantly break the making coffee rules?  Because I like the way our spats end: You grab my hips and spin me into a bear hug and ardent kiss that even now – in the memory of it – leaves me breathless.

Still – probably surrounded by a Platoon of spirits – with each cup of coffee you pour – you add cream, a teaspoon of sugar and while you stir, you grumble to the cup, I can’t believe she is still such a rebel. They all chuckle.  I can hear you, you know, as though the words form a red neon ticker tape of commentary circling the tongue and groove pine of the kitchen ceiling.

I ask God: Do spirits laugh?  And I have this vision of you sitting around with God and Buddha, a few Mystics and all the Team guys who have so recently passed over.  You are all telling stories, animated hand gestures and colorful language and the laughter is so huge it sounds like thunder rumbling through the trees.

The passion with which we lived still resonates.  My ego starts to dream up God deals.

I’m sipping coffee laced with licorice tea.  I know… the oddity of me.  And I begin:  rainy coffee

Dear God, today is the 495th day of this infinite deployment and really, I need him back now.  Here’s the deal….

God sighs… the infinite loving sigh.   No Deal.  He says this in capital letters.  And like I’m watching a You-Tube short I’m given a glimpse of you – vital and healthy, slipping through narrow gates, holding infants, holding moons, philosophizing with Emerson and St. Francis, building lavish parks, bending to take a toddler’s hand, telling sea stories with your Team mates, trimming your mustache, building houses, studying in a library that is endless and everything.   You are full of Joy.

When you stand, turn, and stare at me, through me, hands on hips, blue-green blazing eyes near maximum intensity I can hardly breathe through the realness:  I’m writing again, I say. The answer to the question you have not asked.

About damn time.  You think it.  I feel your thought and see it glisten through you just as the sun peaks through the cloud.  It’s your rare, reserved smile spilling over me.  I laugh aloud because even in Heaven you’re a smart ass.

It’s all about the Love… I hear you say, standing at the stove stirring your beef bourguignon and reminding me each time I walk into the room that it’s all about the love.  I wonder if you even had an inkling then of the absolute greatness of that simple lesson?

You wait patiently then – so unlike you – until my soul fills with a boundless blue love.  The rain begins again and it is here in this moment I feel your energy leave me – for now – standing in the perfect memory of you.

rainy morning sun

Lynnette Bukowski © 2011