The Thanksgiving Holiday offers us a specific season each year to reflect on our blessings. These past few days my thoughts have focused on my childhood and the impact my parents made on me during my formative years. Their words, their priorities, their expressions of love and their examples shaped and molded me quietly, subtly and powerfully. I spent much more time with my mom, and I can never underestimate her positive influence, but there was a quiet strength in my dad that influenced me just as much or more so than my mother. He was a good honest hard-working man. He was devoted to my mother, and he was a constant in my life. Perhaps because of life’s current circumstances, this week I am remembering his example of heart-felt prayer. Every morning before breakfast it was Dad who would call us to prayer. We would kneel around the kitchen table, and we would pray together as a family. And every evening before he prepared for bed he would call us together and again we would kneel to pray. His prayers were humble, and they were heart-felt. He prayed for us, his family. He prayed for the country he loved. He prayed that he would be able to meet his business obligations, and that he would always be honest in his dealings with his fellowman. Those prayers helped introduce me to God.
As a young girl I often wondered why prayer was such an essential part of his life, and why he wanted it to be an essential part of mine. The maturing process opened my eyes to insight and understanding as he reluctantly shared painful experiences of his past. At the age of 19 my dad volunteered to serve his country during World War II. He was on a battleship stationed in the Pacific from 1942 until the end of the war. I never heard him speak about his war experiences until I was a married woman with children. Dad admitted that at the beginning of the war he and his “navy buddies” as he called them, reacted to battle much like they would the high school basketball games of recent months. They cheered and hollered as enemy combatants where shot out of the sky. But near the end of the war when the Japanese knew they were losing, and they were desperate to win back their advantage, their tactics changed. At this point Japanese pilots would sacrifice their lives diving their aircraft into American Naval ships bringing death and destruction and many times the complete loss of ship and crew. Dad described how he knew the proximity of the Kamikaze pilots by listening for the size of the shells being fired at them. The bigger the shells, the further out the Kamikazes were. But when the smallest shells were being used he knew that impact was imminent, and he would dive for cover praying with all his soul that the plane wouldn’t hit. I feel that those experiences with prayer were never forgotten. He felt as I feel, that those prayers brought him home.
I feel that I grew up in a storybook world. Unfortunately the world has changed. The values of our society have deteriorated, and as a result I see emotional wounds and suffering all around me…friends and family. My dad’s combat experiences are the perfect analogy to what I feel I am witnessing. His trust in God, and my trust in God gives me the hope that prayer will bring them home.