February 10th is not a particularly happy day in the Hammond Family. As my siblings and our children carry on our lives at various spots between South Carolina, West Virginia and Illinois we will each pause today to remember that this is the anniversary of the day that both of my parents lost their courageous battles to cancer, the bitch. Shocking isn't it, that one could lose both parents to the disease, but on the same day, separated by three years casts an ominous shade on this day in history.
My parents, Jack and Helen, built a smallish ranch style house in a burgeoning new neighborhood in the country 12 miles from town in Fairmont, West Virginia. To give you an idea of the type of people they were, this house was to be covered in stone, field stones to be accurate. Over a 3-month period they would drive the family car all around the countryside, asking permission from farmers and land owners to collect stones out of their fields and meadows, load them into the trunk of their car and deliver them to the house site for the stone masons to lay the next day. The result, a stone house with a stone covered exterior that is absolutely gorgeous. The entire house was covered with stone, including the attached garage, and the cost to them for the stones that covered the house? A couple of tanks of gas, calloused hands and a lot of sweat.
My childhood wasn't perfect, my parents weren't perfect, so I have an excuse. For that I am thankful. It is early in the morning, about the time of day in 1998 when I received the call from my mom and dads next door neighbor, Joan Perry (not the Charleston SC one), who had served as a second set of parents along with her husband Frank; that's the way things were in our neighborhood. I will never forget that morning and the kindness and compassion in Joan's voice as she told me that my father had passed away.
The temptation is to look at this day as dark and dreary, but alas, although I deeply miss both parents and have grieved their loss to us on earth, it is also a day to celebrate their lives and as our faith comforts us, their heavenly birth. So today, I remember and reflect. I feel sadness, yet I am comforted to know that they are free from the pain and suffering that gripped their earthly bodies throughout their fight. And therefore, February 10th isn't as dreaded of a day as one might expect. Reverent, yes, Infamous? Not a chance.