Remembrance & Gratitude

Recently I attended the funeral for Betty Ochs. The funeral was a small gathering at the beautiful, peaceful, Arlington National Cemetery. Betty’s surviving husband, Bill, was happy that we were all there to support him through his pain of the loss of his wife of 62 years.

As I walked into the church, I fought extremely hard to hold back my tears when I saw the coffin and heard the eulogy.

I failed miserably when I glanced over at Bill and saw the sadness and pain in his eyes. Without this wonderful woman and man, I would not be where I am today. They made such an impact on my life and I did not get to share this gratitude with Betty as an adult.

I sent her a thank you card over a year ago to request a visit, but the timing was off  because I believe Bill was going through his chemo treatments. Betty was special to me and my family because she and her husband extended their kindness by sponsoring our entire family of six so we could emigrate to the United States thirty-five years ago.

We resided at a refugee camp in Guam with families living in hundreds of canvas green tents. Each tent was shared with three to five other families where we all slept on army cots. The tents were built on dry yellow dirt.  All I can remember of that place was dirt… dirt everywhere as far as the eye could see.  Having grown up surrounded by green rice fields and lush green banana plants, I wondered if where we were heading would be the same as this barren place.  My family escaped Vietnam and arrived in the U.S. with nothing.   Hot dogs and the yummy chewy red Jello…all this food was new to me.  I loved Coca Cola (and drank that sweet delicious bubbly drink for many years after we arrived in the U.S.).  To me it was just camping and we were well taken care of.  We were fed by the soldiers and they were always nice and smiled at us.

Bill and I exchanged stories, at the reception following the funeral, about the shopping spree he had taken us on at Woodward & Lothrop’s department stores.  I had never seen elevators or escalators before; this was all foreign to me. Wow, the steps moved all by themselves, you could just hop on and they would take you up and down without you moving your legs or feet… how FUN!  I thought.  I recall thinking, what are these unusual looking maniquins all dressed in these fancy outfits?  How cool would that be to have that fun outfit on the first day of school?

My sponsors bought me this beautiful, latte-colored fur coat.  I wish I still owned that coat just for keepsake purposes.  They looked on proudly each time I gleefully tried on an outfit. I wanted to ask them why it was necessary for me to buy a coat, but had no way to communicate with them, I only nodded and smiled happily. The only English words that my dad taught me were “thank you” followed by a smile.

At the funeral gathering, we continued to exchange funny stories. I do not recall the variety of stories, but the perceptions of our sponsor’s children about us while we were living in their home were interesting.  Her son told me a story of a time where I was very bossy to my three younger brothers. I shared this with my husband and he tells me that I have not changed much. Funny but true! The abundance and blessings that I have today fill me with joy and gratitude. I trace all of those blessings back to the simple generosity of strangers who became in a way, my family’s saviors.

What I took away from the funeral warms my soul.  The Ochs family was grateful to be a part of our family. They had the means to give others the opportunity to have a better life in America and I was proud to be their adopted family. I am grateful to this wonderful family and their unbelievable generosity. I aspire to pay it forward as many times as possible over in my lifetime here on Earth. For your kind and generous hearts, I thank you Bill and Betty.

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29 Replies to “Remembrance & Gratitude

  1. Ann – what a wonderful story! I never knew about your background until I read your very touchy story that you posted here. I am sure, one day you will write a book about it in detail. THANK YOU!

    Following you on twitter.

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  3. Your story is very touching. I am happy that your adoptive family sponsored you and your family, because of them I have such a wonderful friend.

    You know I love ya!


  4. Ann,
    My father sent me your blog. I am so happy that my mother lives on in your memories too. Your family was –and is–indeed dear to all of us.

  5. OMG this was beautiful! This is the wonderful story I’ve been wanting to hear for years…you did it!!! I love you and cherish your friendship and that you write beautifully. I can see little you intriqued with the escalators. Guam…I lived in Guam. This is wonderful and blessed!

  6. Thank you for sharing your story, Ann. I hope that it will inspire others to do what you are doing – Pay It Forward. I am so happy that Twitter brought us together and that I have had the chance to get to know you better! Hugs, Gail

  7. Ann…what a lovely telling of a story of love. Funny, I have memories of visiting “tante” Frieda – a dear sweet elderly lady who wasn’t an aunt at all, but had sponsored my mom to come to the states from East Germany about 50 years ago. (JUST in time – before none could leave) I was born here, but so few Americans appreciate the quiet generosity and caring of these sponsors. Somehow, I suspect Ms. Ochs knew of your gratitude…expressed or not xoxo

  8. I loved it Ann!! You did such a great job telling this story! So very glad to see that you are sharing your great writing with us all! Hugs n Love, Debra @momsofamerica

  9. Wow Ann Though a sad and touchy moment in the article but your style keeps it alive and touching the heart enough to feel the pain of death and still the joy of giving too. Gratitude and blessings all in one article. That is real life

    Wayne Dyer, is great I like his way of expressing the power of Intention too.

    Fran Aslam

  10. What an incredible story Ann. It warmed my heart and so glad to get to know you a bit better through your sharing. You never know what someone has walked through or where they’ve been. Btw, I lived on Guam for about two years,1975-1976 till we had to leave after Typhoon Pamela devastated the island. Small world huh?

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