My mom loved this country. If she heard the National Anthem played, it didn't matter where she was, she'd stand to her feet and lay her hand to her heart. She was a huge baseball fan, and when the Star-Spangled Banner came over the airwaves, I remember her at times standing at attention in our living room, waiting out the duration of the song. Sometimes her chin would quiver just a bit, especially on the part where the music goes up an octave and talks about the flag still being there. There's no doubt about it, she loved this land.
I can't help but wonder how she would be handling the behavior of some of our professional athletes, refusing to stand at the playing of the National Anthem or the antics taking place on the eve of the next big election. She wouldn't be pleased and would most likely pen a letter to the editor of her local paper, something she'd done on other occasions when she had something to say. But mostly I think she would cry, grieving for a Nation that she would no longer recognize.
Recently I was rummaging through a box of old photos and came across a simple scrapbook that my mother had put together a very long time ago. On the front cover there is a picture of the flag with the caption America the Beautiful followed by several pages of pictures taken from magazines. Beneath each are the stanzas of the hymn, written out in her own hand. The rest of the scrapbook is filled mostly with newspaper and magazine clippings of mountains and rivers and farmland and tree-lined roads. This was her America.
My parents were not idealists. They understood life's realities. My mother knew poverty when her father became crippled and could no longer support his family. She grieved when her younger sister suddenly died and watched her mother sink into a life-long depression as a result of it. My father fought in the War in Europe and lived with chronic pain because of a serious injury. But they were proud of their American heritage and raised their five children to appreciate a nation that offered each of us opportunities like no other place on earth.
A few months before my mother died I flew to New York to spend a couple of weeks with her. One thing she said to me still stands out. A woman of deep faith, she had accepted the inevitable and had no fear at what was ahead. She also talked about how much she had loved this life, her family and friends and the simple pleasures that brought her enjoyment every single day. Then at the end she paused for a moment, almost as if embarrassed to say it. "But I'm having trouble letting go." That was my mother, full of gratitude for the life God had given her. And grateful to the nation that had offered her so much.
|Another page of "America the Beautiful"|