Lili Mai

I began the day with yoga, physical therapy, and pain meditation. Pain meditation is when you try to meditate and all the body parts that you hit with the lacrosse ball and the football (a substitute for a foam roller) were busy screaming at you.

It was in the 20s outside. Too cold for a bike ride (at least for me anyway) so I decided to lace up my hiking boots and head to Great Falls for a hike. Along the way, it occured to me that hiking in mud was not likely to be a whole lot of fun. I have been meaning to go to Arlington Cemetery for a while now (say, 25 years) so I decided to check it out. My first few visits resulted in discovering the graves of several famous people by sheer seredipity so I decided to follow the same strategy.

I began with a visit to the grave of JFK and Mrs. Kennedy and their two babies. On the walk away from these graves I happened upon Bobby’s and Teddy’s graves which are much more modest.

I hiked up the hill and in short order came upon the graves of Abner Doubleday, the apocryphal creator of baseball, and Stephen Vincent Benet, the author of John Brown’s Body, a book length historical poem of the Civil War. Except it was not that Stephen Vincent Benet because the author died in the 1940s.

I trucked around in a great counterclockwise circle hoping to find more famous names but failed miserably. As long as I was away from the perimeter of the cemetery, the only sound I could hear was the sound of my breath and the occassional jet ascending from National Airport. I walked past thousands and thousands of graves. They serve as a reminded  sacrifices made by people over 250+ years. They also remind me of the repeated failure of humankind to live in peace with one another.

On the way out of the cemetery, I decided to check out the Women in the Military Memorial. I had heard that my kindergarten teacher, Lili Mai Kelly, was listed on the register. I went inside and checked out the exhibits for a while then turned to the register. Thankfully, it was computerized. I didn’t know her maiden name so I was hoping she was listed under Kelly. And after a few searches, I found her. Totally cool. (Sorry about the blurry picture.) She taught me and at least five of my six siblings. Over the years she became one of my mother’s closest friends. It seems she was in our house every week when I was growing up.

She signed up for the Navy WAVES in her mid-thirties to free up a man for overseas duty. She was stationed in New York City where by chance she met a serviceman while riding horses in Central Park. They married and had two kids who served as babysitters for my family for many years.

Many years later, we named our daughter Lily in her honor. (I had no idea of the spelling of her name until today.)


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