What Did You Do During The War Grandma?

“Suppose they Gave a War and Nobody Came.”

That was the caption on a popular poster back in the day.  Wouldn’t  it be lovely, but we are not there yet. And as Remembrance day approaches we remember the fallen in wars where everybody went and many didn’t return home. War leaves no stone unturned, no human untouched, and its tremors reverberates for generations.

To the forever empty nests because of war and conflict

Let’s take a look at  war through a couple of poems written by women. The unheralded and subordinated voices. The first is by Eva Dobell who was a British poet nurse and editor.  Here is her famous poem:

by Eva Dobell (1876–1963)

Crippled for life at seventeen,
His great eyes seems to question why:
with both legs smashed it might have been
Better in that grim trench to die
Than drag maimed years out helplessly.

A child – so wasted and so white,
He told a lie to get his way,
To march, a man with men, and fight
While other boys are still at play.
A gallant lie your heart will say.

So broke with pain, he shrinks in dread
To see the ‘dresser’ drawing near;
and winds the clothes about his head
That none may see his heart-sick fear.
His shaking, strangled sobs you hear.

But when the dreaded moment’s there
He’ll face us all, a soldier yet,
Watch his bared wounds with unmoved air,
(Though tell-tale lashes still are wet),
And smoke his Woodbine cigarette.

We salute the unsung heroes, the caregivers,  the listeners, the people left to survive the peace and  pick up the traumatized pieces of lives forever changed. The widows, orphans and casualties on the home front. The victims of dangerous working conditions in munitions factories and special operations.

And here is a poem from a woman who served on the home front.  A brilliant description of one of the many roles that women had to fill to feed families during the war.

The Women’s Land Army by Rose Perritt

A world of chaos, a world at war,
Destruction as never seen before,
A world of heartbreak, world of fear,
And misery so hard to bear.
Armies wrong, and Armies right,
Marching forth to kill and fight,
And lo, the toll of death was high.

An Army came, but not to kill,
Only hungry mouths to fill,
An Army clad in brown and green,
About the countryside was seen,
Around the farmyards, on the roads,
With horses, carrying heavy loads,
A womens army, firm of hand,
Had come to conquer on the Land.

In lonely ones, or gangs together,
In strange fantastic English weather,
That never a moment may be lost,
In tearing winds and biting frost,
They tended livestock, planted seed,
Tilled, manured, conquered weed,
Picked potatoes, cabbage, beet,
So that England still could eat.

Now a world at peace, a world still mad,
A world all blasted, weary, sad,
A lot more hungry mouths to fill,
The green Army is needed still,
Little reward will come their way,
But beauty in their hearts will stay,
That comes to those that understand,
Love of a horse, the love of the land.

Rose Perritt (WLA 134339) served in Bedfordshire working for Bedfordshire War Agricultural Committee based at Cople Hostel

If you are lucky enough to know someone who lived through this period, find out if they are  willing share this  this most intense time in their lives.  Let me know what  you learn.


Journey to Caregiving: Becoming Stronger Than You Know

“We can’t wake her up.”
The emergency room Dr. on call that day waited in silence for a reaction. Is she talking about sleeping beauty? – I wondered.  I  used to watch hospital TV dramas so I needed real medical terminology not the fairy tale version.  “Do you mean she is in a coma?” I asked.
Now we were getting somewhere. Now the numbness could find its place deep within a ruptured spirit.

The Journey Begins
Sometimes fate has a way of turning your world upside down. It can bring a change from which there is no turning back.  When it arrived on that day in April, it was dark and despicable. Amid the expanding chaos I felt a seed of strength growing.  Where was the strength coming from?

“Our Deepest fear is not that we are inadequate. Our deepest fear is that we are powerful beyond measure.”  Marianne Williamson – A Return to Love

It is that power that gives you strength when you hear the words, as in my case, “We can’t wake her up.” from an emergency room Doctor.

My 20yr. old daughter, a third year university student and varsity athlete had suffered a heart attack. The test of strength had come knocking at my door like the cry of a banshee. It screamed a terrible shriek and brought pain that had not been witnessed in the living memory of my family.

The soft whisper of death  caressed my child as she lay without vital signs for the ten minutes it took for the paramedics to arrive. Words cannot describe the free fall in to the crevice of despair.  You search for miracles and things which defy logic.

“People who pray for miracles usually don’t get miracles. But people who pray for courage, for strength to bear the unbearable, for the grace to remember what they have left instead of what they have lost, very often find their prayers answered..”   Harold Kushner,  Rabbi and author

My daughter showed that she was stronger that anyone knew.  She broke free from the arms of death, sustained for a time on life support, to rest in a coma for a week, eventually to return to us. The price paid for her return from the underworld was her sight and acute brain injury.

This is when you know that you are strong. You realise that everything that you have done in your life has made you strong for this moment, and this experience is making you stronger.

My daughter’s healing journey has allowed me to see the amplified kindness,  generosity and thoughtfulness of the people I come into contact with daily. People from around the world, from every faith group are praying for her.  We are truly blessed.

When you become a Caregiver you become strong. Strength is a gradual process. Every breath you take and every experience makes you stronger.  Learn to trust your instincts and know that you can get through anything because you are stronger than you know.

As a trained athlete, my daughter knows how to push her body to new boundaries. She is now unstoppable.  Her brain is healing and rewiring.  She is stronger than she knows. She will be able to do the things  she wanted to do.  Maybe not the way she imagined due to her vision loss, but with more imagination and power than ever before.

I am honoured to be by her side in this journey. Each moment together is a precious gift. I feel that love is stronger and deeper when shared together on a common journey.  I thank her for this gift – of understanding that we are all –  Stronger than we know.


EmptyBesters Redux: Blog Regained

There is a light at the end of the tunnel and I feel like I have pushed my way back into the sunlight. Friends, readers and subscribers it has been a roller coaster  year.  Thank you for sticking with me through my mostly silent blog period. The time has come to “redux”. I love  this  word,  it sounds so sophisticated. Redux is a literary term meaning  “to bring back”.  I am bringing EmptyBesters  back with an update and  reflection on the trickster nature of life’s best laid plans.

“Some of us think holding on makes us strong; but sometimes it is letting go.”
Hermann Hess

I was going to change the name of the blog.  I wondered if it would still be relevant and resonate considering the changes that have occurred.  Trusting my instincts I decided the name stays,  the tag line changed, and the blog will evolve around it.

Some people have a smooth life journey, some have a few bumps in the road, others have their whole life go to hell in a hen basket. Yes, the latter applies.

We come to understand that no matter how awful the situation, we will get through it.  There are people  who have had similar, if not more challenging situations  than I encountered.  The difference in succumbing or overcoming a tough life challenge is the willingness not to accept the limitations that other people place on you.

“Life is not always perfect. Like a road, it has many bends, ups and down, but that’s its beauty.”  
Amit Ray, World Peace: The Voice of the Mountain Bird

Is “self-pity” your frenemy?  Maybe, but it can be an active part of the process in discovering your inner strength. It forces you to examine every aspect of a situation until it is time to show it the door and kick sadness to the floor.

In my journey discovered:

How generous and kind people can be.

How draining stress is to the mind and body.

How to seek pleasure in simplicity.

How to accept the things you cannot change.

How to raise a little hell to get the changes that are needed.

How to surrender to patience.

Visit with me, perhaps I can offer some insight and answer some questions around life altering change and overcoming adversity that will inspire your journey.

Have Courage,

J. L. James

*In my next post I will describe what happened and how I found the strength to begin again.