The day started with the hustle and bustle of getting Camp Casey ready for Cindy’s return, and all those who would be following her in. Rosie O’Donnell called to offer her support, “what did we need?” Buses for the rally Saturday and flights for more families and Vets to join us here. “Fine” she said, “I’ll send a check to cover it all.” Yipppeee, we have 5 buses to help bring in the supporters from Dallas, Ft Worth, Houston and Austin to the big rally on Saturday. Some fabulous new organizers arrived and went to work on details, flyers were made and organizations contacted by 2:00. Lisa Fithian found a printer. We are even more high tech -- we now have WiFi at Camp Casey II AND a printer.
Cindy arrived with many of the mothers including Melanie and Susan House and her 8 month old baby. Johnny, son of Melanie, husband of Susan was killed 7 months ago in one of the Blackhawk helicopter crashes. They walked to the crosses for each of their sons and took in the beauty of the camp. Cindy walked through the tent saying hi to the busy crew and new visitors. When she arrived at the giant 20 by 20 foot banner of the face of Casey that Johnny Wolf from the Peace House had made for her, she broke down for a very long time, thank God the cameras pulled back and gave her the space she needed. It was a very powerful and quiet time in the camp.
The kitchen staff laid out dinner and we all ate in a kind of stillness. I ran into Jeff Keyes, “What are you doing here? I thought you left. You have been desperately missed.” He looked serious, “I got to the airport and found myself bawling as I went to turn in the rental car, turned the car around and drove back. I couldn’t leave, where else is there to be but here, right now.” Jeff is about 6’5”, in the US Marine reserves and served one tour of duty in Iraq. As the sun set, he and Cindy walked to the front of the crosses where Casey’s cross stands. Cindy picked up the cross and walked to the middle of the crosses, flanked by Jeff and Joan Baez.
Quietly the camp moved from under the tent to surround the over 300 crosses. The sunset was beautiful, the sky streaked in reds and oranges. The light was amazing and the feel of the camp rich. Jeff picked up his horn and like an angel played Taps. Slow and sweet. Tears were flowing, I had goose bumps on goose bumps the entire time. Just before he finished we heard the sobs of Melanie House. When it was over Cindy took her shoulder and walked her gently back to the front of the crosses. Joan Baez with a force of a mother bear kept the press from following them, they backed down. With heads bowed and a gentle stillness, the campers began moving back under the tent to give them the privacy they needed.
Aimee from Santa Fe introduced Joan for the 4th night in a row, to an eager audience. She has spent the nights after the sun went down telling us the stories of her life, weaving in delightful stories of our heroes that she has stood by the side of, moments in history she has been present to witness and singing the songs of those moments.
We finally sit after a non-stop day to have our hearts and souls fed. She began by singing Finlandia, a capella, the national anthem of Finland, which ends with, “Oh hear my song, Oh God, for all the nations, a song of Peace, for their lands and mine.” To honor Steve Earle for taking a side trip to Crawford to entertain Camp Casey on Saturday night, she sang Christmas in Washington; “You cannot break our will, as the bells of Freedom ring.” sending chills through all of us. She followed with a song she learned while living in Baghdad for a year when she was 10, the Arabic tones and words taking us there. Gracias por la Vida followed and she ended with Swing Low for Casey. It was a Swing Low like I have never heard before, tears were streaming and chills were going up and down my body. She could hit and hold those high notes that ripped our hearts open...including Cindy’s. We leapt to a standing ovation and Cindy moved to the stage to give her a hug and thanks.
Cindy pulled the microphone out and sat on Joan’s chair, the tent silenced again. She began slowly, looking around the tent with her eyes often falling on the banner of Casey. She talked about all the Bush attack dog’s attempts to discredit her, that they were silly and stupid. But what hits her are those who say that Casey would be ashamed of what she is doing. She talked about seeing the banner when she walked in, bigger than life, “I miss him so much,” her voice quaked. We all felt that longing personally. “But you can’t kill Casey’s love and spirit, he is here with us tonight. Let me tell you about Casey, he was a gentle, kind and loving person. Casey ended up in another person's country, having been told he would be greeted with chocolates and flowers, but instead they didn’t want to be occupied.” She took a few breaths, looked over at Casey again and said “Let me tell you about Casey. When he was little he would come up from behind me and grab my legs and kiss my butt and say ‘Mom I wuv you’. Every night when I would kiss him goodnight he would look up and say, ‘Thank you Mom, this was the best day of my life’.” Everyone was in tears, Cindy took a few more breaths, and began the next story to sobs in the audience. “One day at church in the middle of the sermon, he stood on top of the kneeling prayer bench and at the top of his lungs launched into ‘I’m Popeye the Sailor man’, and from that day on, his nick name at church was Popeye.” A pause and another glance at Casey, “One day we went shopping and I was going up and down the rows looking for a place to park, Casey said ‘there’s one Mom’. 'Oh Casey we can’t park there, it's for the handicapped'. Casey responded with ‘Oh, we’re not handicapped, we’re Catholic’.” We had moved from crying to laughing. She had taken us into the complexity of her heart as it was embracing all that was flowing through her, and we had surrendered to it.
She continued with stories and then said that Casey had always wanted to help and serve. “I remember when I was nursing him, I told him I would never let him go to war. I broke that promise.” To pull it all back to how she started, she said, “When I get to heaven, he will say ‘Mom, you did a good job’.” You could hear the gentle sobs. “Nothing, not all the beautiful people I am meeting, not all the Vets that call me Mom will ever be able to replace Casey. It hits me 50 times in a day that I will never see him again. I can’t bear that another Mother will have to go through this, bear this. Peace and Love is what it is all about. They say what are you doing? Recreating the 60s? What’s wrong with Peace and Love? They have been missing for far too long. You might be able to lie to Congress, and the media, but not to us, not mothers who have lost their sons, and some their only child. We aren’t going to STOP. All the mother’s have to rise up and say NO, I’m not giving you my son so he can die to line your pockets.” Her voice was strong, firm and loud. She quieted and looked at Casey’s banner again, “When I looked into Casey’s eyes when he was just a week old, I knew he was going to be a great man, and look at what he did with his short life. He has brought us all here. He has joined with the tens of thousands of angels who are behind us saying ‘we hope our deaths can make the world a better place’.” The tent burst into applause, eyes full of tears, hearts opened and connected. She had taken us into her heart, into the deep well of Love and Peace that is Cindy Sheehan.
Later as we sat behind the trailer writing blogs and laughing she shouted, “Look, a beautiful shooting star.”
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