“Billie, I love you very much. Have your teeth come out yet? I would like to see you with them out. In another day or two you will have a birthday. I wish I could be there to help you eat your dinner. Be sure to have a cake and candles and remember me when you blow them out.”
My father wrote this letter from somewhere in Germany in early 1945 to his 5-year-old daughter. He never got to see me with my teeth out, learning to ride a bike, being silly or scared. He never got to see my wedding dress, my babies, my grandchildren. He was killed April 5, 1945 while spearheading a large-scale attack on a German stronghold in Western Germany.
Let’s fast-forward our story. The location is a small community called Ted near Louin, MS. Smack-dab in the middle of Ted is a rare thing-a quaint white church with a small well kept cemetery. This was the setting for our birthday party celebration where we blow out candles and remember our father, our grandfather and our great-grandfather-Billy Horace Yelverton.
My husband, son, daughters-in-law and grandchildren went with me to celebrate his life. I wish you could have been there. First of all, you would have to be part of the preparation for the party. With my grandchildren in tow, we bought our cake and flowers. Can’t leave out the bubbles to blow and the quilt my mother made to sit on and roll on under the shade of the trees.
You need to listen to my story told to Annaleigh, Slade, Anna, Adam and Neal. This story was shared on the way to the party celebration in the cemetery.
“He loved to play basketball. People have told me he was so good. He was real smart too. I know he loved this church we are going to, his family and his country. This Purple Heart reminds us of how brave he was.”
This was not a memorial service that took place. This was a birthday party to celebrate a gift of memory to my grandchildren. You see, they got to go to the church he helped to keep alive, choose their own flowers to scatter on his grave, carry the flag that was on his casket, sing, run and play with bubbles.
If you were there, you would have heard this loud singing and laughter and quiet prayers by my husband and son. You could have blown out the old candles and hold one as you remembered his life. I take away one memory from our celebration.
Caught up in the moment, one of our grandsons said to me, “BB, I want to be just like your father when I grow up!”
So, on days of celebration for our freedom and country, could we put aside our differences and together run and play, carry flowers, blow bubbles, wave the flag, and remember all our fathers who gave their lives to make possible this celebration of freedom.
Your opening with the letter from your dad set me up beautifully for the rest. It just flows, makes your deceased dad very real to me...I could celebrate from the heart, joyfully treasuring the person, rather than knock off a dutiful salute. You're going on my tracklist, sister.