He stood looking at the restored World War II landing craft as though he had just come across someone he had never expected to see again. It had been so long since he last saw this acquaintance he seemed to be having trouble remembering whether they had parted on good terms or not. Then he placed a hand on the side of the gray craft and closed his eyes. What those closed eyes saw only he could possibly know.
Just a few months earlier, for the first time, my step-father had shared with me what it was like to pilot a craft just like that at Iowa Jima and Gudal Canal. Quietly, almost with reverence he recounted how he dropped wave after wave of young marines on the shores of those far away islands. As he finished he looked up from his coffee cup and stared out the window. There was nothing more to say. All that was left was a once dim memory now all too painfully vivid again.
My mother stood beside me watching my step-father go through this ritual at the D-day Museum in New Orleans. She looked as though she was unsure if she should interrupt.
“Go to him mom,” I whispered.
She nodded and walked across the tile floor of the huge building. I knew she didn’t care much for all the military equipment and memorabilia. That didn’t matter. She did care for the man who had loved her for over a decade. After being alone for twenty odd years this man had come into her life and protected her with a passion. Now, in some way he needed her.
They stood side by side for the longest time, not a word passing between them. But volumes were being spoken. Then he began to walk her around the boat, explaining different things as they went. My mother could have cared less about horsepower and caliber of guns but she did care about the man she stood beside. For the briefest of moments they were on that boat together, ferrying terrified marines to face staggering odds. For just a flicker of time my mom, the city girl, could feel the salt spray pelt her face and hear the gunfire whizzing past their heads.
He was twenty-three when he last saw that old friend and now he was eighty-five. You would have thought there was nothing more to say between the two of them but there was. Nearly twenty minutes passed as my mother and he walked around the landing craft and talked. I didn’t think it possible but I saw my mother gaining even more respect and love for this man who had rescued her from loneliness.
The Apostle Paul told the Philippians,” you have done well to share with me in my affliction.” Something truly amazing happens when you take the time to “share” in another person’s life. You see through their eyes and feel through their heart. Take the time to share in someone else’s afflictions. If you do, you have done well!