Raindrops

The letter below is printed with permission. John is a Vietnam vet who lives in Australia. He and his friend Rick saw me perform in Vietnam.

Dear Mamie,

If I helped you to get a good nights sleep I am pleased.

I know what it is like to not be able to sleep and to be haunted by things I saw and experienced in Vietnam. I learned to live with them, but they are always in the background.

I think one way to comfort yourself when you feel those things in the night is to recognize that you feel them because you actually have a kind, compassionate heart.

When you toured in Vietnam, all those years ago, you saw suffering and put your life on the line as well. You could have died there and you knew it. BUT you went anyway. At that point in your life your heart told you that you needed to go and your head got you there.

Mamie, you and I have grown old. The memories are even more vivid now than twenty years ago. Be kind to yourself when you feel down.

You asked about Rick. Rick was an ordinary guy from Idaho. He grew up in a small town, never had a girlfriend and died never having had sex. That was Rick. He was funny, blue-eyed, open souled and faced the world with a shrug.

Rick was happy that day when he and I saw you. After he died and I returned to the States, before coming to Australia, I visited his parents. They wanted to know how he died. All I said was “When he died he had people around him who loved him”. For them that was enough.

The world is strange and we don’t know what to believe anymore.

I had been a member of a Vietnam Veterans’ group on Facebook for 3 years, but never posted anything. One day I was reading all these heroic war stories, that I didn’t believe, and decided to post something of my own that was true.

Here it is:

“After I was shot in 1968 I was taken to a military hospital in Saigon. While I was there I slipped in and out of consciousness. At one stage I heard a nurse saying to another nurse, about me, “It’s really bad!” I remember I opened my eyes, looked at her and said, “You think this is bad? I got a letter last week that told me my dog had died”.

Sometimes our feelings seem in-congruent with what’s happening. That can happen in a war, after a war and late at night when we can’t sleep.

Remember Mamie, in your life you have made many more people happy than you have made sad. You made Rick happy, even if only for those few moments.

When I am depressed about my life and past I remember what Buddha said, “You came upon a raindrop and called it your life.”

Until the next time,

Your friend,

John

The Buddha’s raindrop analogy is part of a teaching on death he often gave to his students. Simply put, our journey as raindrops begins when we leave the raincloud, and continues until we rejoin other droplets in oceans and rivers. Our death then is not the end of life, but merely our consciousness rejoining our fellow raindrops in the ocean of cosmic consciousness, waiting to take rebirth in the next rain shower.

mvd

THE CLOSEST THEY GOT

I have PTSD.  If you follow me on Twitter or Facebook, you know it because you often catch me posting at all hours of the night.  PTSD keeps me awake.  I hear from many of you who are sleepless for the same reason.

I spent months in Vietnam entertaining the troops.  Far from being part of a traditional war zone tour, I hired my own musicians and performed my shows wherever I was wanted.  The Army kindly helicoptered me up and down the country from the Mekong Delta in the south to the DMZ in the north.  Many times my tour took me close to the heart of what war means:  random and senseless destruction, my own death, the deaths of the innocent, the deaths of soldiers, and, perhaps worst of all, the cruel mutilation of the wounded.  The things I saw and felt in those months left a lasting impression on me.  Changed my life.  Sometimes they surface in the form of nightmares.  Strangely, instead of fading with time, they have become more vivid, more terrifying.  You could be a veteran of any war, a victim of a violent crime, a rape victim, or a victim of an accident.  PTSD is likely part of your life too.  The chances are you feel isolated, afraid, angry, and depressed.  Or all of the above.  Others who have not had similar experiences will try to understand, but only a brother or sister in arms can truly fathom the depths of your pain.

A Vietnam vet named John Huddleston recently reached out to me, having spied me prowling around social media in the wee hours of the morning.  John served two tours in Vietnam as a combat medic. You can be sure he saw some really bad shit.  In our back-and-forth messaging, John was reassuring as only someone could be who has walked the walk.  With John’s permission, I am reprinting a portion of one of his posts.

Mamie I can’t express how important your visits were.You stuck your neck out for us and we knew it. I hope you realize you’ve always been more than an entertainer. You also have a social conscience and a good heart. Many who saw you there never came home. You are the closest they got. Mamie, you are the last thing many of them ever saw from home.

I read the last two sentences and couldn’t stop crying.  You are the closest they got.  John, your kind words refocused my thinking.  Being the final link for those brave ones who didn’t return shifts the burden for me.  I don’t think the night terrors will be less, but when the cold sweats dry and the cotton mouth of fear is washed away, I’ll carry on for as long as I can.  They swapped their lives for mine.  I’ll wear their memories on my sleeve.

mvd