Sunday, December 22, 2013

A Promise Kept

'Til Death do us part,
They said it.  They meant it.
A Promise born in the Heart,
They made it.  She kept it.
- Sam O'Herlihy

Sgt. Gantt had married his sweetheart, Clara, in 1948.  The couple had first met while riding on a train from Texas to California two years earlier.  Sgt. Gantt was already a veteran when he met Clara, having served with distinction in the South Pacific in World War II.  Perhaps it was his firsthand knowledge of just what war is that prompted him to tell his young bride - before he left for Korea - that he wanted her to remarry in the event anything happened to him.  She told him - quite directly - that she would not.  He was hers.  She was his.  That was that.

His remains finally having been identified a month or so ago, United States Army Sgt. 1st Class Joseph E. Gantt finally made it home to his bride shortly before dawn on Friday, December 20, 2013.  A plane carrying his remains landed in Los Angeles, California at or about 5:30 AM.  There to greet his casket at LAX was his bride, Clara.  While Sgt. Gantt remained forever twenty-six, his wife of course did not.  It was Clara Gantt, now in her mid-90s, who rose out of a wheelchair and wept as she finally had the chance to welcome Joseph home.

Clara Gantt never remarried.  She and Joseph had no children.  For the past six-plus decades she had relied upon her own seemingly bottomless reservoir of personal strength to keep herself going in pursuit of the dream that Joseph would one day come home.  And on Friday that day finally arrived.  

In an interview that Margaret and I watched on the CBS Evening News on Friday night, Mrs. Gantt said, "I am happy that I am still alive to bury him myself."  

Hearing her say that, I could not help but wonder whether now this soldier's bride views her own mission as finally having been completed.  I know that I shall never meet her.  Yet I came away from learning her story - and the story of Clara and Joseph - feeling as if she makes me a better person simply by knowing of her.  An extraordinary woman....  

....and a Christmas story that is equal parts heartbreaking and heartwarming for many, many reasons. 



No comments: