Sleep Well

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For my father on Memorial Day

It was always a part of what we knew about you-
Serving three long years in the South Pacific,
Spoken of obliquely
If asked about, but never really answered.

We knew you were a battalion leader
Knew you spent many nights without sleep,
Unsure if you’d see the dawn
Only to dread what the next day would bring.

We knew you lost friends
And your innocence;
Found unaccustomed strength
For the mama’s boy who cried too easily.

Somehow life had prepared you for this:
Pulling your daddy out of bars when you were ten
Watching him beat your mama
And finally getting big enough to stand in the way.

Tarawa, Saipan, Tinian beaches
Blood soaked battles won.
Now restored and recreated
As vacation resorts.

We let you go without knowing
Your full story–even Mom didn’t know.
You could not share the depth
Of horror and the fear you felt.

It was not shame that kept you silent but
Simply no need to revisit the pain
Of recollection.
It was done; it was finished, you had done your duty.

So as we set flowers and flag
On your grave, now reunited with Mom
I regret so many questions unasked and unanswered
Of a sacrifice beyond imagining.

Sleep well, Dad, with Mom now by your side.
I rejoice you both now wake to a new dawn.

5 thoughts on “Sleep Well

  1. Thank you for posting this. I am thinking of my father today too, and this poem is his story as well. Our fathers always seemed so different, and now I wonder.

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  2. Prayers and gratitude for my dad, too. Similar story, he was a paratrooper (82nd Airborne) in Normandy. How meaningful it was for me to once stand on that beach! Thanks for your beautiful poem, Emily.

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  3. A wonderful tribute Emily. I’m also thinking this story would make a bestselling novel – it has the making of a genuine and good story, even if you don’t have all of the facts. God prepares us for the battles ahead in ways we never see in the pain of the moment.

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  4. I feel like I am in the presence of genius whenever I read your stories . You write such deep true human emotions that we can all relate too , and I enjoy each and every piece you share with us . one of my favorite books is Frederic Remington his selected writings ,
    I hope that someday I shall also have a hardbound book of your selected writings on my shelf to share with grandkids and family . Thank you for sharing once again .

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