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Grateful For Chaplains

Painting: Personal Items Returned

Jeanne Harris Weaver (12/9/2016)©

Recently, I ran across a video of the Terra Nova Memorial held in Afghanistan on September 14, 2010, which we received after Todd was killed. I don’t remember receiving it. I suppose it was one of many occurrences which happened in those early months which I blanked out of my mind; or did not have the emotional stamina to digest. 


I watched that video for the first time. I could not only hear the words; but I could watch the body language of those who spoke in memory of Todd. I could see how they spurred Todd’s platoon on to fight in honor of Todd’s sacrifice; to not be brought down by his death. Top Guns never quit.


Most memorable for me now, nearly 6 years later, were the words by the Chaplain. 


“He was truly a servant leader…A great void is left in his absence. Even greater is the richness he gave to us—his smile, wisdom, compassion and courage. He was faithful to us to the very end. Even greater than the void is love and love never dies.”


It is this chaplain who I believe left his cap with Todd’s personal belongings and which made its way home to Todd’s widow, Emma. It was this cap which Emma allowed me to borrow and to paint. And when I began to paint it, I noticed the small cross.  Not Todd’s cap; but the Chaplain’s cap left for me to discover and to realize just how much he cared for my son. That cap is pictured in the painting  shown with this blog writing-“Personal Items Returned”. As I set up the still life for this painting I noticed sand in Todd’s gloves. I painted that sand into the painting. The sand, from Afghanistan, where Todd had walked, and where he took his final breath.


There were other Chaplains as well whose caring nature touched me during that first year. CPT Jason Nobles conducted the Funeral Service at Arlington National Cemetery. CPT Nobles contacted our family in advance of the service. He asked how he could make the service personal to our family’s needs. Over a period of time we were able to suggest what scriptures would be read and aid him in creating a personal service for Todd. 


There was the William & Mary Chaplain, Pastor John Kerr; also, interim Rector of the historic Bruton Parish. As of a year ago, Pastor Kerr, who I have never met in person, had included Todd in two of his sermons. He said in a letter to me, in part: 


In fact, as I walked back and forth from the Wren Chapel, I passed the memorial to Todd in the College grounds (Todd’s tree) and always stopped and prayed: many Canterburians can acknowledge that. 


This Chaplain had been a child who grew up in a military family. He understood the personal and honorable sacrifice made for one’s country and God.


About six months ago, I was having a discussion with a minister who had recently lost a loved one. I could see the emotional trauma he was experiencing on a personal basis. He had officiated many funerals throughout his life; but I think that with this loss he could understand, perhaps for the first time, the compassion needed to help a person undergoing personal grief. 


Recently, I was contacted by the Central Florida National Veteran’s Foundation. The Chaplain for the Chapel at the Lake Nona Memorial created to those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, from WWI to the present, wished to have a copy of my book, Losing Todd: A Mother’s Journey, included in the Chapel’s library. I was greatly honored to present them with a book. They understood the underlying message of spirituality in my book. It is my hope that those people who visit the Memorial and Chapel will perhaps find comfort and compassion in reading the book. 


Chaplains have a unique perspective. Perhaps it takes a person experiencing the grief and loss of honorable sacrifice to God and country to have that compassion and understanding and be able to give of themselves to those who are mourning this unique loss.  I am grateful to each of these Chaplains for the love and compassion they have shown to me in honor of my son, 1LT Todd W. Weaver.

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