Monday Ministerial Musings
By Rev. Mark William Ennis
2023 Blog #22
May 29, 2023
A Memorial Day Tribute To Kenneth Kizer
Today is Memorial Day. I will, of course, be attending the wreath-laying ceremony at town hall and will be marching in the town Memorial Day Parade. Of course, our family will gather for a picnic later. I do hope that no one wishes me a “Happy Memorial Day.” “Happy” and “Memorial Day” somehow do not seem to go together. Yes, I understand that this day is the unofficial beginning of summer and that is something to enjoy. But Memorial Day is really about remembering those in our military who have died defending our nation.
I always feel guilty on Memorial Day. I feel a bit of responsibility for the death of my Godfather. He did not die until 1980 but he began to walk toward his death when he suffered PTSD during World War II. He was in a construction battalion (CB) and built many of the structures for our military on Guam Island. He had a break down during his service and spent the end of the war in a military hospital psychiatric ward and never fully recovered from his break down.
I remember him mostly after his retirement. He was a bright man who taught me a lot but mostly lived in a small apartment with his wife, my Godmother, and rarely went outside. Uncle Kenny had virtually no social life, lamented the poverty of his childhood, and doing astrological star charts, convinced that none of us had any choices in life. Any issues a person had, he believed, was written in the stars and a person had no real control over one’s life.
During my high school and college years, as he aged, his depression deepened, his hopelessness worsened, and his drinking became worse. During those years he stopped doing self-care and he became something of a recluse. After my college graduation and one month before I started seminary he couldn’t endure the pain of living anymore. He waiting until my Godmother was out shopping and he hung himself in his apartment.
After his suicide he was out of pain but the family pain was severe. The summer after my college graduation I was so busy with my own life that I didn’t make much time for him. I was getting ready for Seminary and as engaged to be married. I was looking forward to the years ahead and forgot and neglected my Godfather who was in so much pain.
To this day I wonder how many years Uncle Kenny would have lived had I visited him that summer. Would he have found a reason to live if I had not focused so much on my own life at the expense of seeing him? I’ll never know the answers to these questions but I know that I would not be asking these questions if I had taken the time to see him and take care of him.
I plead with everyone reading this to not make the same mistake that I made. Let us never get so wrapped up in our own lives that we neglect those in pain, especially those who suffer because of the effects of their military service. Even as we remember those who were killed in service, let us care for those who lived through service but suffer from it.
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