I never told him thank you …

May 25, 2009 | 17 comments

The hospice nurse’s shift was nearly over. She wanted to say goodbye. She leaned over my father-in-law’s bed, in his last hours, while his eyes were closed and his heart was slowing.

They say the hearing is the last thing to go, so I believe he heard her what she spoke into his ear: “If I don’t see you tomorrow, Paul, I just want you to know how much I appreciate your service to our country. Thank you, Paul, for all you’ve done.”

The nurse gave my father-in-law the gift of spoken words — the sort of thank-you that I never spoke aloud in his ear. She gave him heartfelt, audible thanks for his service.

Today is Memorial Day, when we honor the sacrifice of the soldier. Forty years after Paul served in Vietnam, my father-in-law was a casualty of war. He was exposed to Agent Orange, which led to lymphoma, and later leukemia. He died Jan. 21, 2009.

Even though I didn’t tell him in person, I know that my father-in-law knew how much I appreciated what he’d done. (But I still wish I’d told him so out loud …)

I am reprinting a post today that I wrote on Veteran’s Day 2008. It was my way of saying thank you in a way that I have always felt more comfortable: with the written word. I know that Paul read this one, just a couple months before he died. And I am grateful for that.

November, 11, 2008 — He’s a man of honor and quiet strength. He doesn’t talk much about his years in Vietnam. God got him through, he tells us, and that alone is really all we need to know.

He’s a fighter, this man, my favorite veteran.

Like most veterans I know, he has never lost the desire to serve his country. He’s not fighting wars anymore, but he’s still looking for ways to serve, to make a contribution. To provide leadership, set a good example, and show what it means to work hard, serve country, and honor God.

Yet, beneath the tough exterior of an old soldier, he’s a soft-hearted Grandpa who my girls call “Bop.” You should see how this old soldier plays with those little girls. The rough hands of a farmer and a fighter reach out wide to hug his grandchildren, to grasp a crayon, to play dolls or hold teacups.

Oh, how he loves them. And oh, how we love him back.

On the farm CB radio, just now, as I write this tribute to my favorite veteran, his wife reports that they’re about ready to leave to take the snowy roads to the hospital. He’s fighting another battle these days — leukemia — and he has a scheduled chemo treatment today.

On this day, Paul, as you fight this battle, we honor you and all of the nation’s military veterans — men and women of exceptional courage and strength. God bless you for how you’ve fought old wars … and for the way you teach us new lessons in the battles you face now.

We are the home of the free … because of the brave.


May this Memorial Day be more than “another day off” for all of us. May it be a time to remember, and to offer audible thanks.

by | May 25, 2009 | 17 comments


  1. God's Not Finished With Us Yet...

    That was lovely Jennifer! I know you miss dear Paul deeply and He does know how very much you were thankful for the services he contributed to in keeping America a free country.

    That is a very lovely post; and one that you must feel so very proud of in knowing Paul, his heart, and his overwhelming fight to live through the wars on the battlefield and again through the fight with leukemia.

    Thank you Paul for serving for me, my children, and our future to be the strongest nation we can be; all because of men and women such as yourself. Thank you!

    ~Sarah Cecilia

  2. Blessed Mom of 8

    Jennifer what a beautiful post and tribute to your Father in law!

    It is nice to “meet you”.

    Praying for all those who have served and are currently serving our country defending our freedom!

    In His amazing grace,

  3. Runner Mom

    Hey, Jennifer! This was a great post–what a loving tribute to your wonderful father-in-law! I, too, am sure that he knew how thankful you were!

    I appreciate your sweet comments on my blog! I read through some of your earlier posts–wow! I plan on coming back and visiting again!

    May this Memorial Day bring y’all blessings and beautiful memories of Paul. My Daddy, who fought in WW2, will be getting a phone call later today!! He’s the bounciest 85 year old I know!!


  4. Angie Vik

    We just got home from a community Veterans Memorial Day celebration so remembering veterans is fresh in my mind. My husband was in the Marines and he’s only had two people thank him for his service. I’m sure Paul’s family is thankful when you expressing your love and appreciation for him. I enjoy reading your blog. Makes me wish I’d gotten to know you better when I only lived 30 miles away.

  5. Rod and Jean B

    Yes a great tribute to Paul. I remember last fourth sitting with Ron & Sandy saying "look there is Paul isn't it great for everyone to see him" and did say thank you that day.

    Words from my blog today–..The cemetery in Detroit Lakes, MN has special meaning to us as Jean’s Dad’s coffin flag is among over 500 flags flowing in the wind this Memorial Day…panel 4 is this inscription “Axhahl, Armand N., Army Air Corps WWII”…Thanks to all for their service and especially to those that made the ultimate sacrifice.

  6. Andrea

    Jennifer, what a beautiful, moving post and lovely tribute to your father-in-law. I was so touched by reading of his loving, gentle nature. Thank you for sharing his life with us.

    Many blessings to you in your walk with Christ Jesus our precious Lord.


  7. TUC

    What a loving post, my favorite of the day. I, too, am thankful to Paul for his service and I hope he knows it up there!

  8. Laura

    Who could not love a guy called “Bop”?

    What a beautiful tribute, Jennifer. I was reminded this week, by an untimely death, how fragile life can be. I’m trying to let it be my call to give that gift of words. To say “I love you”, what a precious gift.

    Saluting our veterans today. Remembering the fallen.

  9. Monica

    As always beautifully written!!! And what a wonderful nurse your father-in-law had!! Thank you for sharing and reminding us how important and special our words can be to those we meet on our path~

  10. Billy Coffey

    I remember this post, and it moves me as much now as it did then.

    Our country has been made by the faithful service of men like your father-in-law, who beat their plowshares into swords so none of us would have to.

    He still stands guard, Jennifer. Standing at attention over your family and your fields, keeping a vigilant watch.

  11. sharilyn

    a beautiful face to put on this day…thanks for sharing, jennifer. and thank you, Paul, and the many men and women who serve our country in this way… we are grateful for and to you!

  12. Warren Baldwin

    Wonderful tribute to a soldier and family man. I’m sure he knew your appreciation.

    Yesterday morning I watched a movie of an American solider POW in N. Viet Nam. It was very moving. I wound up thinking about him all day long. I couldn’t get him out of my mind. He died in 2001 at age 62, probably due to the abuse of his body during his captivity. Many of those who live after war are still very much a casuality of that war, aren’t they? A “thank you” is definitely in order for how these men served their country in their youth. Good post.

  13. christy rose

    I just wanted to let you know that i mentioned you in my blog post today. I am doing an event with my good friend called,”blogger appreciation week” and i could not finish my post without mentioning how much i like your blog. Wow! Two times in a month I am telling people how much you inspire me. It must really be true! haha.

    Anyway, I just wanted you to know that I mentioned you.

    Have a blessed day


  14. ~*Michelle*~

    WOW..powerful stuff.

    So happy I found you…..well actually God has a great way to navigate us to just the right people, doesn’t he?

    I will def. be back…..great inspiring words.

  15. L.L. Barkat

    As Marcus said elsewhere, concerning Memorial Day, to remember is to re-member. And you´ve done that here… yes.

  16. Anne L.B.

    Jennifer, I so appreciate the reminder to make sure what’s in our hearts reaches our lips. So much goes unsaid until it’s too late.

    Your blog is lovely.

  17. Joye @ The Joyeful Journey

    Wow. What a great and fitting tribute to a wonderful veteran, your father-in-law! And to all our soldiers as well!!

    My brother was wounded in Iraq and is still recovering, two years later. I am so grateful to still have him with us and I am fiercely thankful for all he and some many others like your father have and will continue to sacrifice for this great nation under God.


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