Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Waiting on Brother
Asha Murthy MacDonald is an artist.
Much of her life has been spent in Montana.
She has been inspired by God's natural art of land and sky.
A few years ago, she painted a landscape. If you study it closely, you will see subtly a yellow ribbon tied around one of the trees.
When Pete was first deployed to Iraq, we were living in the San Francisco area.
A great friend found her painting in a gallery, bought it, and gave it to us as part of their commitment to remembering Pete and his service.
That painting has had a special place in our home ever since. Especially since November 14, 2007.
In April of this year, American Airlines invited us to help fill a 767 bound for Iraq. Thru the Unsung Hero Fund, we were allowed to put two and a half tons of soldier care packages, soccer balls for Iraqi kids and school supplies on the plane.
I begged my way onto that plane and that trip. And got permission for my youngest son Zac to go as well.
We had no idea who else was on that trip.
We soon learned that Tony Orlando and his band were the key human element as they were going with us to entertain the men and women in the Middle East.
The yellow ribbon has quite a history, but it became really famous as a result of Tony Orlando and Dawn and their recording of, "Tie a Yellow Ribbon Round the Ole Oak Tree" in the 1970's.
The yellow ribbon became a symbol for families and friends waiting for the return of members of the military away at war.
Tony learned Zac's and my story, and he made it a point to become very close friends. He is such a patriot. Such a giver. Such a supporter of our military.
When we got home from the trip, I tracked down Asha.
I learned that we had the original painting, and that no prints had been made.
I asked if she could make two.
Asha did some research and found that she did have a digital copy.
She made two prints, added some personal color and her signature and sent them to me.
I sent one to Tony in May to thank him for his selfless service to the military.
Surprisingly, I didn't hear back from him. I thought that was odd.
The second print was made to give to the employees of American Airlines for their selfless giving to our military.
I intended to present it to Gerard Arpey, the Chairman and CEO of American Airlines, at some future date.
A few weeks ago, American Airlines sponsored an event called Skyball. It is a huge fundraiser with the proceeds going to support an event called Snowball Express.
Snowball Express is a free weekend of fun for the families of fallen soldiers. American flies the families from around the country to some fun place so that spouses and kids can enjoy a great time and meet each other just prior to Christmas.
I took the print for Mr. Arpey with me to Skyball.
As I walked in, the first person I saw was Tony Orlando.
He asked what I had under my arm.
Sheepishly, I showed him and said, "Tony, have you ever seen this painting?"
He began to weep.
"Alan, this painting showed up a few months ago. It hangs on a wall in my home. I did not know where it came from. I told my wife today that I hoped I might learn who sent it while on this trip. God is so good."
A few minutes later, I had the opportunity to present the painting to Mr. Arpey with Tony at our side.
What a gracious man. What a good man. What a servant. What a leader.
Mr. Arpey was taken aback.
"Thank you, Mr. Burks. Thank your son for his service, and your family for allowing him to serve. I want you to know this will have a special place in my office. And I want you to know I will pray for your family tonight."
The circle was complete.
I needed to tell Asha the story.
I emailed her, but the email was bounced back.
I called the number I had for her, but it was disconnected.
I Googled her and found a connection in Montana. He gave me her new email.
Asha is a new mom. She, her husband and their baby just relocated to Ohio.
I received this email from her today.
Asha to me
show details 3:23 PM (7 hours ago)
Your email made my day and I am so glad that you were able to track me down.
My husband accepted a new job in Ohio this past August, shortly after our daughter was born so we had been in the process of relocating and have finally settled. Since arriving here, I had been feeling less than inspired to paint having to leave our friends, family and beloved home that was Montana. And so my easel had been sitting dormant in our garage for over a month.
Until I got your email today - I am honored to know that my art is so greatly appreciated by those who have done so much for others - yourself included. That in itself is inspiring, so I know you have thanked me for helping you make this all happen, but really, I thank you.
Have a wonderful holiday season.