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“Little Grandma” (as we all called her) was 86 when last I saw her alive on what was to be her deathbed. She smiled and asked about my broken arm. She was old, bent, wrinkled — and tired — so she said. I guess it was from her Native American bones that I inherited my love of nature, my peace with all of it; all that is natural and beautiful on this tiny jewel of a planet — the wild iris, the rose, the caterpillar, the crimson sunset and the rain.

The rain. But of course, there are a thousand kinds of rain. They come in so many colors, moods, and sounds. Tall sheets of rain seen from miles across the “Big Sky” country; cold, drizzly little fall rains; sudden laughing summer showers; lashing hurricanes that flood and kill and toss trees like broken toys.

When we buried you, “Little Grandma,” it was a gray day steel steady rain of tears from a sky that held unseen clouds. It was the rain, I guess, that drowned out the meaningless words of the poor man in the black robes babbling uselessly to comfort me. The grass was very green in your little spot beneath the black, dripping elm.

burial cemetery countryside cross

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On the rain fell, on the ancient little church, on the little crowd of black umbrellas, on the stones of the graveyard, gradually, gradually, fading out even the words carved in stone — but not the words carved in my heart, “Little Grandma.”

We don’t think of “Little Grandma” as a fallen soldier. In her longish life, however, she saw her children and then her grandchildren go off to war. Seldom even a heavily redacted post card. Never a call on the satellite phone. And her grand-daughter’s husband was killed in a war. So, I thought of her on Memorial Day — and all the other millions of women who kept life going — and all the while never knowing whether their sons and husbands would ever return whole — or return at all. Now, of course, women are also war-fighters. But haven’t they always been?

flight sky sunset men

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Citizen Soldiers: Part 1