I have never lost a loved one to war, for which I am very grateful. But there is somebody that I would like to pay tribute to. A person to whom my entire family owes its very existence, though I never had the pleasure of meeting him. His name is Owen Hardeman, and he is my grandmother's first husband. Allow me to tell my family's story...
I have three grandmothers, two biological, and one adopted. My adopted grandmother's name was Winnifred, aka Winnie, though us grandchildren called her "Moggie". Moggie's first husband was Owen Hardeman, and she loved him very much. But there was a war, and he joined the fight over in Europe. He was a pilot during the Second World War, and sadly, he was shot down somewhere during a flight from Britain to France. He and his plane were never recovered, and Moggie was never able to give him a proper burial. During the rest of the war, Moggie did her best to get through her life as a young war widow who would never get real closure.
When the war ended, Moggie traveled all the way to India, where she spent several years as a teacher, and I would imagine, trying to find meaning in her life again. Trying to get through each day and hope that some day, it would all make sense again and she might be happy once more.
After returning to Seattle in the mid 1950's, she moved into her mother's house and continued to drift through life. In an effort to encourage her daughter to find something to do with her life, her mother mentioned that there was a family just a short distance away whose young mother was dying of cancer and they needed help. Their father was a train conductor who was away from home a lot, and the four children were all under the age of eleven, including the youngest, was was only three years old. Perhaps she could volunteer her time and help keep the house and tend to the children.
That is how Moggie was introduced to my family. She volunteered her time and life to them, and in doing so, found her purpose once again. The four children would come to see her as a surrogate mother, and when their mother eventually died of cancer at the young age of thirty three, Moggie would continue to be there for them. In time, she and the children's father married, and she became the stepmother to the four children. Several years after that, their father died as well, at the age of thirty eight, leaving her alone with the children. Instead of being done with the children and shipping them off to live with extended family or to an orphanage, she kept them and raised them as her own. Because to her, they were her children. She was their mother.
The youngest of the four children is my mother, and my family continues to share the story of Moggie and our family history with one another, and the new generations who have joined our family over the years. I cannot help but think that none of us would be here, if it hadn't been for Owen Hardeman's death in the War.
I don't tend to be one of those people who thinks that God does something so that something else can come of it, but I do think that He is a good opportunist Who sometimes nudges things in a particular direction. Call it karmic balance, if you will.
Something horrible happened to one man during a war and it cost him his life. Through the actions of others, his widow was eventually able to help keep four people together who would otherwise have been separated or moved out of the city they called home. Because of this, my mother was able to meet my father in the time and place that they did, and subsequently were married. And then I was born. It's all connected, and for that, I feel deeply grateful for the sacrifice of a man I never met. Because of him, I am.
This is why I am honoring him and his story, on this day, a day set aside to honor all the Owen Hardemans of this country, from all wars. Thank you for your sacrifice. Thank you for giving your life so that I, and my family, can live freely in this country. I will always continue to fight making this place better for all who live in it and call themselves Americans. I think that is the best thing I can do to make sure that your deaths were not in vain.