by Sharon Pavelda
–My father was awarded the Purple Heart medal when he was wounded in battle somewhere near the German border in 1944. He carried shrapnel from that wound in his body for over sixty years before dying peacefully in Arizona at the age of eighty-nine. I loved my fatherʼs real heart and I was fascinated by the medal that commemorated the wound he had survived in service to his country.I loved the medalʼs heart shape, so sentimental and locket-like, and the almost cameo feel to it with George Washingtonʼs proﬁle centered just so. It made me think of jewelry whenever I saw it. My father wasnʼt much for glorifying war, nor his part in it, and I was glad of that. Nevertheless, feelings of gratitude and awe would sometimes overtake me when I would catch a glimpse of the scars on his chest and back.
–Many years after the war, with my fatherʼs wholehearted approval, my younger sisters and I had his medal made into a bracelet for our oldest sister. She had been the only one of us siblings to have settled in Arizona, and she had shouldered the pain and joy of care-giving for my parents as my motherʼs health slowly succumbed to liver disease. We wanted to honor her service to our family and to the wounds of the heart that hands-on caregiving of a loved one inevitably brings. It is beautiful, and she loves it.
–I believe that every human heart suffers some wound in the action of living and loving. The good news is that our hearts have been made to break open, in order to become capable of holding and sharing more love, if we are willing. The bad news is that we donʼt often get awarded medals for our heartbreak and the survival thereof!
–This year, at The Purple Door on Young studio in Memphis, where we issue invitations to play our way home to Love, we invited folks to come and make any version of a Purple Heart Medal they wished. They were encouraged to make one for themselves as well as for anyone else they wished to honor. Stories were shared and received. Paper and organdy and glitter went where words couldnʼt go. Some of us found places in our hearts that were surprisingly tender. The bigger surprise was how we also felt soothed by touching them and comforted by the communion we discovered in the very act of creating together. It has long been my belief that when we play from the heart, we meet in the heart of the Creator. We know we are there when our words dance, our silence sings, and our art heals.
Sharon’s story reminded me of a song by Linda Worster called Heal My Heart. You can read the lyrics and listen to the song on an album called Grief and Grace by Mark Kelso. But here are the first and last verses:
Jesus my brother, come heal my heart,
There’s a piece missing, it’s falling apart
And my life’s leaking out through the hole left behind
Leaving me empty helpless an d blind
Breathe on me Jesus; I know You can heal it
If pain is my teacher, I’m ready to feel it
And make of my pieces a work of Your art,
Jesus my brother, heal my heart.
Photos: Bracelet and Purple door Valentines–Pavelda Family
Purple Heart– Free ClipArt