Tears of Sorrow

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Lloyd Guessford, died June 7, 1944 on the shores of Normandy, France

Lloyd Guessford, died June 7, 1944 on the shores of Normandy, France

Lloyd carefully pulled the tattered letter from his wallet. Faded, smudged, and creased, the letter was difficult to read, but that mattered not to the young man for he had already memorized the loving words. He treasured each letter he received from his wife, especially since the arrival of his daughter, Barbara Ann, on January 21–over 16 months ago. His lips curled slightly upward as he reread the message:

Dear Lloyd,

Your daughter is growing so fast. How I wish you could see her! She is learning new words every day. She loves to look at pictures, and she now says “Da!” when I show her your picture. She keeps me busy as she likes to climb and gets into everything.

I had this picture taken especially for you! Barbara is wearing her new dress she got for her first birthday. Fella Studio did an excellent job capturing her blue eyes. They do so remind me of you.

Both of us are fine, but we miss you dearly. I tell little Barbara Ann all about you, and she can’t wait to meet her daddy.

I know this letter is short, but I wanted you to get this picture as soon as possible. I will write more later.

With my deepest love,

Connie

Lloyd smiled as he once again gazed at his only daughter. His wife was right. Barbara had his blue eyes, but she had his wife’s brunette hair. Oh, how Lloyd loved his beautiful brown‑eyed wife, and oh how he missed her!

Would Barbara recognize him from his picture? How would she react when she saw her daddy for the first time? Would she reach out for him, or would she turn shyly away?

Lloyd sighed as he carefully folded the letter and placed the picture back into his wallet. How he hated this war! He wanted to be back with his lovely wife and daughter.He wanted to be back with his lovely wife and daughter—a daughter who was growing up without him, a daughter he hadn’t even met.  Hopefully, the war would soon be over, and then he would enjoy getting to know his daughter.


But Lloyd never got that opportunity. Lloyd Theodore Guessford died on June 7, 1944, during D‑Day operations in Normandy, France. He left behind a young wife and a daughter, not quite 17 months old.


Connie tried to muffle her sobs as she rocked her young daughter who had finally fallen asleep. The young wife and mother struggled to be brave for her daughter’s sake. Yet, Barbara was perceptive beyond her young years. She knew something was wrong and she clung desperately to her mother while awake and resisted going to sleep.

Gently, Connie laid her young daughter in her crib. “Oh, my little Barbara Ann! How sorry I am that you will never meet your daddy. He was such a wonderful man!”

Tears flowed down her face as she tenderly placed a kiss on the sleeping child’s soft brown hair. “Whatever will we do without our dear Lloyd?”

She did not leave her daughter’s room but collapsed back into the rocking chair, as she had nearly every night since the awful tragedy. “Oh, Lloyd, why did you have to die? Why? I need you so much! Barbara needs you!”

Connie let her mind wander back to the last time she had seen her beloved. She vividly remembered those final precious moments before Lloyd boarded the train that took him away forever. She had clung desperately to her husband as though she could prevent his leaving. Somehow, she had feared the war would take him away for more than just a couple years, despite his reassuring promises.

“Connie, I’ll be back before you know it. Be brave for me‑‑and that little baby,” he said winking as he patted her slightly swollen abdomen.

As much as she tried, Connie could not hold back the tears as she watched the train pull away. She was a brave young woman after that, and no one saw her cry. Only her damp pillowcase at night betrayed her emotions.

Time passed, but that lingering fear that somehow the war would separate her from her beloved, never departed. Even before the confirmed report of her husband’s death, Connie knew that something dreadful had happened.

Suddenly, her life was empty, except for little Barbara who gave Connie hope that life would go on. Barbara was her last living link to Lloyd, and somehow, she and Barbara would make it.


 

Author’s note

This fictionalized true story was written in November 2000. I never had the privilege of meeting Lloyd Guessford, although I’ve seen pictures of him and Connie and have read the newspaper account of his death. Yet this man has become an important part of my life since I married his oldest grandson in 1991.

Though dead, Lloyd lives on in his daughter Barbara, his two grandsons, and his three great‑grandsons and four great‑granddaughters. Without this man, whom I never met, I would not have a wonderful set of in‑laws, a terrific husband, two nieces, nor five precious children.

I am thankful for the many Lloyd Guessfords who fought to maintain this country’s freedom and for the many who willingly sacrificed their lives for that cause.

My husband Maynard Keller also wrote about his grandfather in Lest We Forget

You can read about my oldest son in the Army in Happy Birthday in Afghanistan..

 

Carried in His Arms

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Over my bed hangs a plaque with my name Rachel, its meaning (lamb, gentle, innocence) and the verse Isaiah 40:11.

He will feed His flock like a shepherd;
He will gather the LAMBS with His arm
And carry them in His bosom,
And gently lead those who are with young.

This verse took on special significance for me when I was pregnant with my oldest son John. My husband and I found ourselves in a place of uncertainty, not knowing where God was leading us or how He would provide financially. (We were rich in Christ, but very poor in material wealth.) In anxious fear I knelt at my bed and cried out to my Abba Father. Glancing up, I noticed my name plaque and the verse. And in that moment I felt God’s arms around me, reassuring me that He was carrying me–His lamb–in His bosom and that He would gently lead both me and the young child in my womb.

Now 20 years later, my Good Shepherd has reminded me once again that He holds me–His lamb–and my offspring in His arms. The week before traveling to Camp Shelby in Mississippi to say goodbye to my firstborn (who would be leaving for Afghanistan within a week) was full of mixed emotions. I was excited and eager to see my son again after being separated for almost two months, but our brief time together also meant his imminent departure to a dangerous place far from loved ones and my protective arms.

Not by coincidence, the name Jehovah Roi, or God is my Shepherd, was the name of God for the week in Ann Spangler’s Praying the Names of God online devotional. At the same time, God was comforting me through a book that a dear friend gave me (Psalm 91 for Mothers by Peggy Joyce Ruth and Angelia Ruth Amy Schum) from which the following is excerpted:

Do you know why God calls us His SHEEP? It’s because a sheep is the only animal that doesn’t have any protection on its own. It is not like a dog that can bark away his enemies or a skunk that can spray out a bad odor to keep from being bothered. Some animals have sharp teeth to protect themselves, but a sheep doesn’t have anything to protect himself–EXCEPT THE SHEPHERD. We are God’s sheep, and Jesus is our good Shepherd. He wants us to know that He is our protector. Just as the shepherds on the hillside protect their sheep, Jesus wants to protect us.

I love my son dearly, but God who made him loves him far more than I ever will. He understands what it is like to send a son as an ambassador to a faraway, dangerous place (John 3:16; Romans 8:32). And He knew long before Jesus came, the indescribable death awaiting Him. Yet, He sent His Son who willingly left the beauty and perfection of heaven to live in a fallen, wicked world that cruelly rejected Him–not because we were worthy, but because of His great love for us even when we were unlovely (Philippians 2:5-8; Ephesians 2:1-7).

Yes, Jesus is my good Shepherd (Psalm 23; John 10). He covers me under His wings (Psalm 91). I can go nowhere (even to the remotest or most dangerous parts of the world) where He is not (Psalm 139). He is my keeper who watches over me day and night. He never sleeps, but is ever watchful. He is my shade on my right hand, and whether I come or go, He can protect me from all harm or evil (Psalm 121). Nothing or no one can snatch me from His loving embrace (Romans 8:31, 35-39). How comforting to be able to rest in those everlasting arms! (Deuteronomy 33:26-27). I can trust my future (and my children) to the Good Shepherd who carries me in His bosom and gently leads me to places of rest and peace in His wonderful presence (Isaiah 40:11).

How does a mother feel about not being able to hug her son on his 20th birthday? In Happy Birthday in Afghanistan, I share my feelings and reminisce about the snowy December night my eldest son entered the world.

Psalm 23 is perhaps one of the best known and well-loved psalms in the Bible. The Shepherd’s Psalm is a poem I wrote based on Psalm 23.

A Mighty Army (For Generations Yet To Come)

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I see a mighty army of warriors yet to be,
A growing generation beginning their journey
Babies in the nursery, the child upon my knee
Will be the future soldiers pursuing victory.

A generation still to come—the children yet unborn—
We train to bear the good news to a people tired and worn.
This army—are we raising and teaching them what’s true?
Have we shown them how to trust and to live a life for you?

All too soon the time will come when we must pass batons.
We need your grace and seek your face; the battle’s just begun.
Lord, raise a mighty army of souls sold out to you,
A generation ready, your perfect will to do.

Are we telling the next generation of God’s wondrous works? Are we training them to be soldiers in His army? Are we teaching them how to pass the baton to the next generation yet to be?

Psalm 145:4 “One generation shall praise your works to another and shall declare your mighty acts.”

Rachel L. Keller
Written Sunday, November 3, 2013