Notes on Gratitude, 51 for 51 #35
Holy shit balls, folks. Since last I wrote I took my first trip “home” to Poland—motherland on the maternal side of my family tree. The trip was amazing, all I’d hoped for and more. Every day the adventure filled me with gratitude for sights, sounds, smells and tastes, and the bravery of my ancestors to leave their home and emigrate from Poland to America, a land 6,000 miles away.
One of the tour’s destinations was Zakopane, located in Southern Poland at the base of the Tatra Mountains. As you can see it snowed! We were ill-prepared for the weather and cold but unfazed. Look at this beauty!
Jaszczurówka Chapel or The Chapel of the Sacred Heart of Jesus is Roman Catholic (one of about 10,000 churches in the country!) and was built between 1904 and 1907. Our group was bused to this particular location to view the intricate wooden architecture inspired by the art of Poland’s highland region known as Podhale.
We had a few free hours to explore other parts of Zakopane and took the funicular to the top of Gubałówka Mountain. It was too cold and wet to explore and the snow obscured our view, but we enjoyed the warmth of the restauracja and our snacks of potato pancakes, cheese and hot drinks. The “we” of the trip included our tour group, me, my husband, Tom, and my cousin and his wife.
Bill and MJ have been married for a year and a half and an added bonus of this pilgrimage was the chance to get to know MJ better and reconnect with Bill. I’ve known him my entire life, but as happens we grew up and went our separate ways, touching base infrequently and usually over sad occurrences like the deaths of our mothers. Neither woman had the opportunity to journey to Poland and I didn’t want to end up with the regret of not prioritizing a visit.
“I want to go to Poland,” I said to Bill last year.
“Me, too,” he replied, and the rest is history.
I'll be sharing more about our trip in the coming weeks, but I have an additional reason for mentioning Bill. He is a career military man and Monday is Memorial Day.
Memorial Day is the holiday we remember and honor people who died while serving in the United States Armed Forces. Of the many family members of mine who served in various branches over the course of generations, none that I know of died during their service—a fact for which I remain forever grateful. On this trip, sitting with Bill, listening to his stories, I was reminded of the sacrifices required of our men and women in uniform and of the risks involved. I was reminded that some wounds are invisible. I was reminded that we can’t let political diatribe and ridiculous tit for tat arguments cloud our vision as to the importance of some of our military missions, the heart of which is keeping us safe. I was reminded of the magnitude of my respect for our patriots bearing arms. And most of all, I was reminded that every living soldier has been touched in some way by the death of a friend, comrade or colleague.
On Monday, in between downing a few beers and gobbling up some barbeque, let us remember to thank the men and women who gave everything to defend our freedom and liberty.
Thank you, Bill. We disagree. Lordy, we disagree about so much. But we will never disagree about the importance of family or the respect I have for you, your compatriots and your sacrifices.
Prayers and blessings to the living loved ones and for the fallen who never made it home. May their memories be eternal.
So glad your trip to Poland was amazing! : )
In my family tree, which is huge, I only know of one relative who was killed in action while fighting for the US. Albert Feingold, from Connecticut, killed in action in Germany during WWII in 1945 at the age of 22. So sad. I can't imagine being in a circumstance like that. I have a huge amount of respect for Americans who are willing to put their lives on the line to protect their fellow countrymen/women. Albert was my 2nd cousin once removed. I wasn't even born yet. He was buried in the Netherlands. My mom met a couple of his siblings decades after the war.
Wow Sue, thanks for sharing Albert's story. How sad, what a hero he was. May his memory be eternal.