I am embarrassed to say that I have been around for the now legendary sixty-four (will you still feed me, will you still need me?) years, celebrating Pearl Harbor Day for all of them, without ever having this particular connection occur to me. I remember Dad coming home from work on Friday evenings with Three Musketeer bars in his pocket for my sister and me. What must it have been like coming from the freezing foxholes of the Pacific - yes, they froze, Dad told me, filling with water, going from slimy ooze to frozen horror, the horror of living in a foxhole of war and uncertain death, - to the little home on the prairie type setting of my parents' first modest house in the suburbs of Washington DC where I was born? Did he have times when he could not tell what was nightmare or dream and what was real or not? Yet we were his children with no memory of what came before us. We dutifully honored the day once a year: the memory of what we had no memory of. Over time, the recounted horrors of that day at Pearl Harbor slowly engendered a memory of their own in us, instilling its very name with a dreaded association.
This year I became aware of The Pearl in Pearl Harbor, considering its name apart from its day for the first time, and therefore this musing upon the significance and poignancy of our remembrance made its way into my thoughts. What must Pearl Harbor have been like before December 7th , 1941? My imagination says it may have been a tropical haven of pearls in a heavenly oasis known as Hawaii; one where divers found the best and most beautiful hidden treasures of nature. I can almost see the happy people diving into crystal waters coming up with handfuls of oysters to seek out those elusive spheres, the only recognized "gems" made during its own lifetime by a creature. Pearls are an inspiring tribute to the triumph of the beauty of life over its own adversity. Hidden deep within an oyster at the bottom of the sea, they are a response to a grain of irritation and annoyance. A solution to a problem that is built up by years of slowly, repeatedly coating the abrasive item, surrounding it with the very essence of the oyster’s own making, one that transforms a worthless grain of sand into a priceless item of great beauty. A Pearl. And they are only found as the oyster dies and gives up its secret by being opened. May we so respond to the irritations and unavoidable problems of our lives with layers of love, patience and perseverance to create those revered pearls of wisdom from them.
And as well, lying at the bottom of Pearl Harbor, coated over with the slow moving years of grace and tears, the ripping abrasion of hostile invasion has become an item of great worth. A treasure of freedom and love. May all the priceless pearls of the lives lost that day rest in the peacefulness of knowing their lives and memory are tributes to the great beauty of the ideals their nation stands for.