Love abides beyond all …
Lydia Barnes knew who she was and what she wanted in life, her goals were set long before she applied for a scholarship in medicine. She even knew the career option that would support her goals. It would be a long road and a tough one, yet she knew the difficulty ahead and was dedicated to see it through. She was “tough as nails”, as her Dad used to say, and had stamina that would not quit. Once she knew what she wanted she held on to it and made it her life.
Lydia took medical courses in college and in two years became a Registered Nurse. During this time she trained as a physical therapist and received her license in 1944. In 1945 Lydia joined the Army Nurse Corps where she continued her education and in four years became a Head Nurse. She specialized in behavior disorders and physical therapy.
It was love for her father that Lydia chose a nursing career in the army. Her father, Lt. Andrew D. Barnes, was stationed in Pearl Harbor when the fateful surprise attack from the Japanese occurred on December 7, 1941. The attack killed 2,335 US military personnel and 68 civilians – 1,143 military personnel and 35 civilians were wounded.
Andrew Barnes was badly wounded and for the rest of his life suffered from severe attacks of depression and anxiety that left him unable to function by himself in life. He had flashbacks to the attack, when for several minutes he thought he was still in battle, then would collapse in a corner with his back to the wall, crying and shaking. This scared his wife and after six months of his return home she left him, took their three youngest children and moved in with her parents.
Lydia was sixteen at the time and refused to stay with her mother. She felt her mother was insensitive and selfish, uncaring and lacking understanding Lydia stayed with her father and took care of him till he died two years later. With a broken heart and determined to become an army nurse to help soldiers who suffered as her father did, Lydia began her education. Sorrow for the loss of her father and anger towards her mother drove Lydia ever harder to achieve her goals. In time she was able to forgive her mother, and forgive herself for not understanding how her mother could abandon Andrew when he needed her most. The time she spent with her father helped Lydia to grow spiritually. Andrew never spoke negatively of his wife and always loved her dearly. He had no misgivings about joining the army and fighting in battles, he believed he did what he was spiritually called to do. He had no hate or ill feelings towards enemies he fought. Lydia learned a lot about love from her dying father. From Andrew she learned that true love had no conditions or expectations attached. He often told her that true love abides beyond all life has dealt us.
Lydia finished her education and was thrilled when she was stationed at the Army Medical Center in the Pacific Northwest. This is when she met Lt. Sam Wilson who had fought in Battle of the Bulge and the Siege of Bastogne. Her excellent work, dedication and continuous praise from staff and patients came to the attention of the medical director who told her they had a new patient that he felt would greatly benefit from Lydia’s experience with soldiers who had PTSD. She used cognitive behavioral therapy, which seeks to change the way a trauma victim feels and acts by changing the patterns of thinking or behavior, or both, responsible for negative emotions.
Lydia was impressed with Sam and how quickly he had responded to physical therapy. He was highly intelligent and a fighter. However, the PTSD attacks left him helpless and frightened, mainly because he did not understand how he could be so susceptible to the disorder.
Over several months Lydia worked with Sam to develop his personal coping strategies by targeting and changing unhelpful patterns in cognitive thinking. She delved into and made him aware of his thoughts, beliefs, and attitudes to enable him to understand his behavior and regulate his emotions. When Sam would have an attack she stayed with him through it. When he came out of it, Lydia would sit on the floor by him and talk calmly. She would tell him, “All that is in the past and gone. This is now, and we have to work with the present, with this minute and how you deal with it.”
Sam became so attached to Lydia and depended on her, yet he kept his distance when he was doing well. For Lydia, the unexpected happened – she fell deeply in love with Sam. She knew he was a fighter, strong-willed, and had ideals. She could see him emotionally pull away from her often. Lydia was also a fighter. She never gave up on her Dad and gave him all the care and love he so needed. She never gave up on her career and stayed with the long years of difficult training to get where she wanted to be. She would not give up on Sam either – she never declared her love to him, yet Sam knew it was there. She loved him and that was that, yet she gave him his space when he needed it and kept her professional manner at all times.
The day finally came when Sam was released from the hospital. He was going back home to Wisconsin to live with his parents. When the time came for him to board the bus, Lydia walked with him. They talked about his progress and healing, laughed at some of their comical memories, and she asked him again if he had all his papers and everything. When they saw the bus approaching, Sam took her hands and looked into her eyes. “Don’t love me, Lydia. You won’t like my life or me in time,” Sam said softly. “But, I appreciate your kindness and all you have seen me through.”
She looked deep into his eyes. “It is more than kindness and my job, Sam Wilson, and don’t you dare tell me to not love you. I am going to love you regardless of the outcome even if you can not love me. And you don’t have to love me. I don’t expect that or anything from you. My Dad always told me true love abides beyond all life has dealt us and I believe that. Just know I love you with all my being and know it is what it is. I have never loved any other man except my father and my love for you grew from the first day we met. Just promise me …” tears poured down her face. “Just promise me you will keep in touch and let me know how you are doing.” She let go his hands and ran back to the hospital.
Lydia stood in her office staring out the window, crying and blowing her nose, wishing she had given him one last hug. She watched the bus pull out and waved, even though she knew Sam could not see her. “Bye, Lt Wilson. take care,” she whispered. She dried her eyes and blew her nose again when she heard a knock. Stuffing the tissues in her pocket she walked over and opened the door.
Sam stood there, his face a mixture of love and sadness, a questioning look in both their eyes as they gazed at each other. “Will you always see me through, even if I have one of those dark times?” Lydia hugged him, tears flowing again.
“Sam, you have fought your last battle. I will be with you the rest of our life, every step of the way.”
© 2017 Phyllis Doyle Burns
So many military personnel of the 101st Airborne Division were killed or wounded. Many who survived faced months, even years of healing and suffering from PTSD (post traumatic stress disorder). They fought hard on D-Day, in The Battle of the Bulge, and the Siege of Bascogne. To learn more about these battles and my fictional character, Sam Wilson, click on the links below.