advancing. like. (a) soldier.


Decoration Day they called it here in the South, and did so in Appalachia even before the Civil War – a time for families to gather at cemeteries and honor the dead; later, it evolved into a Memorial Day for those who died in service.  Yet, here I am on my porch on a breezy beauty of a Memorial Day, thinking of one who has not died; one whose service in the battle continues.  My father’s birthday is tomorrow, and that seems somehow also heroic, a day worthy of decoration.

Doctors looked at my father plainly, five years ago, and said you have three to five years to live.  Yet onward he marches past their predictions, not on legs, but on the mental stamina of a soldier.  Through the fields of lost limbs, the trenches of what must sometimes be despair, through the long dark, tented nights, he marches on with an even temper, a disciplined and grateful heart, a humor that dismisses decorations, laughing as he can.  His tour of duty is not yet done.

This past week, his well-loved first cousin, Robert Hull, fell ill and died.  Younger by a few years and a loyal friend, Robert and Doris drove me to the airport when I came to visit, brought love and meals, tended my parents with a kindness perhaps known only to those also crippled by pain, as was Robert.  A surprise, still, for my father to wheel into his friend’s Memorial Service, and struggle, as he does now, to hold his head aloft, while another of his anchors unmoors and drifts from shore.

Today, wreathes are added to graves.  Bunting is draped from windows.  The dead are joined and remembered.

And tomorrow, my father will march on through another birthday; decorated, as always, with a faithful heart for all whom he has loved, an unstoppable hope for the world he cannot save, and a love that, through all battles, mightily endures.

~ by Susan on 05/27/2013.

4 Responses to “advancing. like. (a) soldier.”

  1. I salute this soldier, with his brave and beautiful heart, his amazing daughter, his head hung low due to awol neck muscles, but held by still-strong soul muscles. Happy Birthday to Bill. I will celebrate!!

  2. thank you, thank you for your words.  i look for your dad every sunday to touch and greet him and also andrew. i give him a hug whenever  i can.  my heart breaks but is uplifted by their spirit and yours.  george and i and our helper who comes afternoons and takes george to lakeshore pool and we have been going to wednesday nights to hear joe lewis present the lord’s prayer book.  what a treasure and gift for our church.  hope to see you when you come.  p

  3. Susan, I have read your words in different passages and they always stir my heart. You have an eloquent way of describing things. I don’t know your father very well, but your brother is my pastor in Huntsville. Your dad is such a brave soul and your words, he has ” hope for a world he can’t save, ” describes a lot of us, but he probably understands that even better than us. I feel for him in his disabilities as well as your family. My mother has Alzheimers disease and I know it is difficult to watch a parent slowly deteriorate. My mother has also lived past her doctor’s prediction, but God will let them stay on this earth as long as He sees fit so I have to take comfort in that. God bless him and you!

  4. Susan,

    Thank you so much for your writing. I am inspired with every post.

    Dr. Hull, I hope you have a Happy Birthday. I think of you often and since early February, almost every Sunday. Bill Leonard has been our supply preacher and we reminisce about you and both of our wonderful times with you. So, if your ears are burning — it’s because we speak so lovingly of you and wish you all the happiness in the world. Bless and Best.

    Donna Herrington
    Charlotte, N.C.

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