I remember (or believe I remember) a long series of lives as a foot soldier. These lives took place a long time ago, way before warfare and weapons were sophisticated, long before battles were precisely planned or strategic. Being a soldier - such as I was, at the bottom of the warrior hierarchy - had to do only with the survival instinct of the clan or tribal soul. I can't remember thinking about what was right or wrong, or which side should win. I don't even think I was afraid. I remember the shuffling of feet and the silence before the fighting began. I remember doing as I was told while dust swirled. I remember chaos and shouting. I remember: swing something heavy, swing something heavy, die - at the hand of someone much more skilled than I. Not my proudest past lifetime moments.
It happened time and again. I believe at some point my soul decided to move on to something else. Thank you, God!
The above is not a great picture. It's the Women in Vietnam memorial on the National Mall. I couldn't force myself to go to the wall yesterday, but I did spend some time with this statue. That woman, holding the dying soldier? It strikes a chord.
I am currently engaged in a series of reincarnations as a healer. I remember several lives in which I served as a military nurse. I remember particularly the Civil War and WWI. What that woman in the sculpture is doing, I did that a lot. Soothing, wiping the brow, cleaning the wounds, holding a cup of nasty water so they could drink. I remember the smell, heat and/or cold. It was never comfortable.
I remember closing the eyes when the soldiers died, pulling a sheet over the face and moving on to someone still suffering. The soldiers died miserable deaths in both wars, as often from infection and the flu as from their grisly wounds. What I remember from those lives is feeling helpless and resigned. I was no Walt Whitman, believe me! I remember going through the motions without hope that anything could bring the guys back to good health. And they were so young. So young!
In my current incarnation, it took until mid-life to remember my calling as healer. I resisted it as best I could. The story I tell myself is that I couldn't do it again, or so I thought. I just couldn't. I hated being a military nurse. Did it build character? You tell me.
It was remarkable to take back the role of healer so late in this life. It was a soul retrieval to be sure. In this life I don't tend to ailing soldiers very often, thank god! - though I have on occasion since living in DC, such as when a group of us worked at Walter Reed at the height of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. I couldn't continue doing that work, though, because I became fiercely ill the day after, every time. Finally, I stopped. I do work on members of the military, but rarely is it someone who has seen action. When I do work with these guys, it's harrowing. Still!
Today I remember with love those who engage in war: the brave, the smart, and the not so smart. (I remember what that's like.)
May your souls rest in peace, all you heroes and all of you who could never be heroes. Rest easy now, ok? Please?