I saw it once. It was on TV. The man was old. He had white hair and a wrinkled face. His arm was raised. He was carrying an American flag, the tiny kind with a wooden stick, the flag no bigger than a First Aid kit. The man was running, as best as his old man legs allowed. He waved the flag.
The field through which the man ran was located in France. He ran toward another man. The other man waved his own tiny flag. The two men had fought on opposite sides of the war. They’d faced each other as enemies. Now, they were to meet in the middle of the field. Tears streamed down their cheeks.
What was it I’d seen? The power of love.
The young man looked to be not much past twenty years old. If he’d been dressed slightly differently, with his pale skin and cap of dark hair, he could have been in a Vermeer. He sat on a side bench behind the organist. Beside him rested his golden trumpet. He sat through the whole damn church service—baptism, sermon, and communion. When the signal went out that all communicants had finally been served, he stood. He raised the trumpet. He played Taps. When I approached afterwards to thank him for his offering, I hadn’t the courage to ask my question: is it as hard for you to play as it is for us to hear?
He entered college at sixteen years old; at nineteen, he was an officer in the Navy. I never saw his uniform. By the time he came into my life, decades had passed since the days when he stood on a ship as big as a small country and felt the deck shudder with the force of a far-away typhoon. Tomorrow, for the first time since I was twelve years old, I will not have him here to thank for his service. But this morning an old man rose from the pew. He stood as straight as his old man’s body would allow. He wore his uniform from 1945. He had been at Normandy. He smiled and waved his hand. The congregation rose as one and gave him a standing ovation.
What was I seeing? The power of love.
here’s to creative synthesis . . .