Monday, October 15, 2012


Over a year ago, I accompanied Vickie Sullivan to meet with Kim Graham of St. Martinville, Louisiana to discuss editing a book Kim was writing about the loss of her youngest son, Pvt. Mark W. Graham, who died from critical injuries sustained in the Iraq conflict. Kim and her husband live in an old, Victorian home that has what I call an onion-topped roof on the Main Street of St. Martinville, a lovely home that Kim has been restoring and decorating for seven years. She took us to lunch at a small café alongside St. Martin de Tours Catholic Church, and we talked about her heartache following the loss of her son, which she had written about in a manuscript entitled A Song in the Night.
As my personal inclinations are pacifistic, my responses to the death of Kim’s son in the awful conflict in Iraq were feelings of rage that such a wonderful young man had been brutally injured when his vehicle was hit by a roadside bomb and everyone in the vehicle perished except Mark. He had been scooped up by a medical helicopter unit and flown to Baghdad, but lost both legs and a kidney and had third degree burns on more than sixty percent of his body. Five days later, he died.
Kim’s book covers her spiritual journey from the point of a dream presaging the death of her son a year before he was killed, through months of grief and a search for the grace she developed by following her Roman Catholic faith. In the dream she glimpsed a heaven that sustained her through the aftermath of Mark’s senseless death.
She writes, “I think God prepares us for our biggest moments with smaller ones leading. We had our share. Financial or marital problems are normal in any family; ours were extreme. Flood, debt, separation, and a family torn apart led us on a tremendous journey of ‘faith searching’ and blessedly, ‘faith finding.’ Flat on your back with arms reaching upward is the time God can come, when we are literally open to Him in every sense of the word. Yes, each moment led to the next and prepared our hearts and our faith, but we never knew how much we would need that strength or faith for the journey to come…”
In March, 2006, Kim had a dream in which she encountered God while she searched for her family, walking down different roads that she thought would lead to those family members. In her encounter with God, He embraced her, and she “felt as joyous as a mother would feel when her son returns home from a war…it was clear, this feeling, with all it implied,” the feeling that a mother has when a son who has battled and suffered and grown returns safely. “I knew all he (the son) had been through clearly, and I knew the love, safety, and warmth of his (God’s) hug, and I knew, as well, that that was what heaven felt like. I had just had a glimpse of heaven.”
In the dream, Kim also saw groups of four and five men who were of different nationalities – “men of Arabic nations, Chinese, and Africans in colorful dress.” She was instructed to tell them about God’s embrace, about His love and joy that waits for them in heaven. One year after Kim dreamed what she later defined as a parable, Mark was killed.
Part of Kim’s recorded journey concerns her experiences as teacher of a memoir writing class that helped her survive the loss of Mark, a class that included bankers, inventors, civil rights leaders, stay-at-home moms who blossomed in their time. The students, of varying ages, wrote about events that, for Kim, resembled parables, “snippets of time and not always in clear detail, but we remember the atmosphere of an event, the feeling of the room, how someone made us feel. We remember our most important times, when they are most vivid in our mind, not because they were everyday events, but because they were special and almost always they cost us something. Sometimes it was our innocence.”
After Mark’s death, Kim was also consoled by the appearance of dragonflies which she considers to be the spirit of Mark and a reminder that God is omnipresent. Since the appearance of the first dragonfly, dragonflies follow Kim and her husband Neil throughout their yard in St. Martinville, almost every time they go outdoors. Her first instinct is to greet her son as she really feels that he accompanies her in the form of that beautiful insect. “I was told that if you think the Holy Spirit is with you, and you feel its presence, then you are correct in that assumption. If it’s in your head, then God put it there, I guess I’m always justifying that the bird (a yellow and black bird that appeared to her shortly after Mark was injured) and the dragonfly are Mark.”
Pvt. Mark W. Graham
A Song in the Night is the poignant story of a mother’s loss of a beloved son, one that will give hope to the thousands of mothers who have lost sons in senseless conflicts. Kim is a brave woman who recorded a hard journey, but readers will feel inspired from having read her bittersweet account, an account that she feels she was instructed to disseminate after having the special dream a year preceding her son’s death.
We hope to visit with Kim again when we return to Cajun country. She’s an inspiration, and, by the way, she makes wonderful fudge brownies!

A Song in the Night was published by Dragonfly Press. Click on the title to order.

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