How do we honor those we have lost? Many times, we name something after them & sometimes we have get-togethers to talk about them and offer up memories and stories. But how do we honor those whom we have lost, whom we have never met, though we know the loss had defined a point in our lives…again knowing we never met them. We had just this opportunity this weekend, to honor my paternal grandmother’s older brother.
Harold Ray Boyd was a gunner in a B17 during World War II, stationed in England. He and his crew flew two missions, being shot down during return of the second mission. His loss of life included a loss of his identity. That loss of identity lasted for more than 75 years, where the………agency was able to trace Harold’s lineage to my uncle and some of his cousins.
I asked the question of how this memorial service would be when there would likely be no one there who had ever met the man. My grandmother passed 20 years ago this past April! The closest living descendants are now in their late 60s and 70s. We had official reports of what happened from eye witnesses who saw the plane going down and from the two survivors of the crash. However, Harold was still until this point MIA.
His story was MIA as well. That is until …… got up to speak. His uncle served with Harold in the same crew. At the same time, his uncle carried and recorded a diary about things that happened to and around him. Entries into the diary included entries about Harold and others. Triangulating some of the stories and visiting with one of the others listed in the edition brought together stories about Harold and how he lived while overseas.
Several of these stories and actions and idiosyncrasies matched up with anecdotes descendants of brothers and sisters of Harold had heard while they were young. What an amazing moment! This man who was a stranger to everybody there and had never met a descendant of a Mini Zelpha & Harold Edward Boyd, knew a portion of the life of a man who had long passed, but not forgotten, but was largely unknown. He was able to find the tie for family members to have a level of closure to events that were way past.
In attendance at the memorial was ….., a 97 year old World War II veteran. He was quite spry and active. He had an amazing recollection of events that happened in the European Theater. While he did not know Harold, ……. , added to the event, knowing that others were able to make it home safely.
So, how do we honor a person we have never met, who is gone? When you have the opportunity, listen to recollections of events that others have had. I had the opportunity to meet a WWII vet at Wolfforth Farmers Market, a couple of years ago. I remember asking him about his service, his response, “Through Normandy and on to Berlin”. Wow, that was one major badass! He had to leave before I could get more out of him, but listen to the recollections.
When you know of someone that is in that situation, there may be a group out there for that set. ….who was able to triangulate stories and anecdotes of Harold had been to an event, where he met Tex. Tex became good friends with Harold while stateside and in England. He was able to visit with Tex and learn about people he had no clue who they were, all while trying to build the story around his uncle. While building his uncle’s story, he was able to build Harold’s story, as well. It would be years before he was able to connect and tell that story to the Boyd family. But, it got told.
Listen to the stories. Pay attention to the tales. Let someone relive their adventures as you listen. You never know what you might learn. And you never know what connections you might make, for you or for someone else.