I have not meant to be silent for so long. I have been busy – as I am sure we all have – with end-of-summer rituals and last-minute vacations, all of them balanced with work, work, work.
But I’ve been doing a lot of reading, and one of the things I came across, about an older man who had to defend himself, his employee and his business from a group of robbers, struck me as something we all might think about and pray on. The man, Charles Augusto, Jr., shot four robbers, all young men, who tried to rob his business and pistol ship his employee. Two of the robbers died and the other two were in serious condition, last time I checked. Mr. Augusto is being hailed as a hero, but he feels like anything but. Here’s the story, from the NY Times, and here’s the section that hit me in the gut:
“While Mr. Augusto, who was born in Yonkers to parents of Dutch, Irish, English and Italian descent, is by no means troubled financially, he described himself as a person whose life had dealt him his share of blows. About 12 years ago, his son committed suicide. Mr. Augusto called his years as a young man in the Coast Guard “the only time I had any fun in my whole life.” He said he has not been able to pay himself since January.”
and . . .
“Despite all the congratulations, Mr. Augusto said he wished that the men had left when he urged them to and that he would not have had to use the shotgun.
“I know the pain these people must feel,” he said, referring to the families of the two who were killed. “I don’t know what feels worse, now or when my only son died.””
On the same day, the Times ran another story about another man Mr. Augusto’s age whose life also didn’t turn out as he would have wanted. As a young man, Albert Perdeck was a seaman aboard the USS Bunker Hill when it was attacked by the Japanese. He survived, but many of his friends did not, and the horrors he saw that day still haunt him. He has only recently found his way to a support group for WWII veterans suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder. This is the part of the story that got me:
“Mr. Perdeck sits in a small community room at Leisure Village West, surrounded by the brittle newspapers and old photographs he carries with him. “Everyone’s laughing,” he says of today’s world, voice rising again, tears coming again. “And I still smell it! I smell it now — beyond 60 years!”
You’ve seen these Al Perdecks all your life — sipping early-morning coffee, say, with buddies at McDonald’s — but less so now. Stocky, not tall, with shock-white hair and a Norman Mailer look of pugnacity. Wearing shorts, dark socks and a boxy baseball cap embroidered with the name of the ship on which he served. You’ve seen him.”
Two men of a certain age, a certain generation that does not always know how to reach out for help. I ask that today we remember these two men, and all people whose lives and work have not always brought the fruits they deserve, in our prayers and on our prayer beads. Here’s a prayer to get you started. If using prayer beads, maybe say this whole prayer on the charm before beginning your usual round of prayers.
Lord God, Father of us all,
I thank you for the lives of our elders,
I lift them up to you, Lord.
Encircle them with the light of your love.
As their world continues to diminish,
Let them feel the embrace of your everlasting arms surrounding them, upholding them;
Enable them to rest under the shadow of your wings;
Give them such an awareness of your presence
That all fear and anxiety will be driven from them
So that they may abide in your perfect peace.
I entrust them to you, Lord; love them home.
(–adapted from “A Prayer for Elderly Parents” by Patricia O. Horn in “Women’s Uncommon Prayers”)