Saturday, March 13, 2010

Duty

A while back, after a particularly difficult day, Jo Anne said to me, "Jack, we really ought to write a book about our experiences together since your accident." I agreed that it would make for some interesting reading. She then said, "And if we write that book I have the perfect title for it. We will call it "The Work and the Glory!" I looked at her in amazement and told her that really was a good title but a very famous author (Gerald N. Lund) had pretty well used it up. She responded, "I know that, but it would still be the perfect title for our book because for some reason I seem to do all the work and you manage to get all the glory."

For the past 20 years I have been unable to do one thing for myself physically. All my physical needs have had to be met by family and friends. Primarily the responsibility has fallen upon Jo Anne who has worked tirelessly in my behalf. I believe she has done it out of love but also out of a sense of duty.

Although I really can't do anything of a physical nature to repay her for all she has done and continues to do for me, I have felt I have a "duty" with regard to her as great as she has to me. And so you might ask, what is my "duty" toward her as my wife in this unusual situation? I believe it is, among other things, to be as pleasant as I can be, totally open in my communication with her, complementary, filled with gratitude for every act of service she performs on my behalf, and never being critical of her in any way. I believe this is my "duty."

The dictionary says of duty: "Duty: Synonym -- respect...
Obligatory tasks, conduct, service, functions that arise from one's position... a moral or legal obligation ... the force of moral obligation." [Merriam Webster Dictionary]

I have gained a great appreciation for the importance of duty in our lives by reading a most interesting book entitled, Nelson's Trafalgar, written by Roy Adkins. Reading this book has been a sobering, but at the same time, an inspiring experience. The author has quoted extensively from the journals of the captains and seamen. There were 17,000 British sailors who fought in this bloody and horrific sea battle -- the last major sea battle fought by wooden ships with sails. The blood and carnage is a bit difficult to read about, but at the same time it heightens one's appreciation of sea life and war in the early 1800s and the courage of those involved.

Of the many things I could share with you from this book I will confine myself to the importance of "duty" that enabled Admiral Lord Nelson and his captains and seamen to win the important battle of Trafalgar.

The Battle of Trafalgar was fought on October 21, 1805, off the coast of Spain near the large Spanish city of Cadiz, and at a point near the coast called Trafalgar. Napoleon had his French army poised on the coast of France ready to cross the English Channel and invade England. He couldn't do this however, unless he knew that he had destroyed the British Navy and could cross the Channel unmolested. The French and Spanish were allies and had a vast combined fleet of French and Spanish warships that was much larger than anything that Great Britain could put together at the time. France and Spain had the ships and the manpower but they didn't have Admiral Lord Nelson.

The British Navy had been blockading the harbor at Cadiz for months, but finally the combined French and Spanish fleet was able to escape which led to the showdown at Trafalgar. The leaders of the British Empire knew that if the British fleet was defeated by the French and Spanish that a French invasion would be inevitable. Admiral Lord Nelson, the Admiral of the British fleet, was given the assignment by his government and King to destroy the French and Spanish Armada. Nelson was a brilliant tactician and had gained vast knowledge of how to successfully conduct a sea battle between wooden ships with sails. He had been wounded in a previous engagement, losing one of his arms and an eye, and never again experienced robust health. Much of his life was spent at sea where he had also suffered from scurvy and other diseases incident to sea life in those days. He was only 5'4" tall but seemed so much bigger in the eyes of those he led.

Just before the English engaged the combined fleet, Nelson signaled from the flagship Victory the one and only message his captains and seamen would receive from him before and during the battle, "England expects that every man will do his duty." When this message was received it had an electrifying effect among the men on the ships. Seemingly, the desire in the heart of most of the British sailors that day was to do his duty come what may. Severely wounded men and officers remained at their posts doing their duty until victory had been gained and their beloved England saved.

In fact, Nelson's final famous words (as related by Victory's Surgeon, William Beatty, who was with Nelson when he died) were "Thank God I have done my duty." According to Beatty, he repeated these words several times until he became unable to speak. To do their "duty" seems to have been at the heart of all that was important to Admiral Lord Nelson and his men. Doing their duty they saved England from Napoleon's armies and ultimate domination of the Western world as we now know it by the Dictator-Emperor.

I believe that "Heavenly Father expects each one of us to do his/her duty." To be able to say at the end of one's life, "Thank God I have done my duty!" would undoubtedly be the crowning achievement of a life well lived. Or as the Apostle Paul said, "I have fought a good fight, I have finished my course, I have kept the faith!" (2 Timothy 4:8)

Dad/Grandpa/Jack

3 comments:

Cam said...

In this era when we hear so much about rights, entitlements, benefits, and what our country should do for us, we all need this reminder of the importance of each of us fulfilling the responsibilities and duties of citizenship, and our duty and covenants as followers of Christ.

Thanks Jack.

Heather said...

I'm also a quadriplegic and I'm completely dependent on others to care for me (my mom is my main caregiver). Like you, the one thing I can offer her is my cheerful disposition and positive attitude.

Feel free to click on my name and check out my blog sometime if you're interested in hearing what my life has been like since becoming paralyzed at age 19. I enjoyed reading your blog!

ionamin-W8FW8 said...

I am blessed to be Heather's mother. I could relate to what both you and your wife said in this posting! Though it is interesting to read your comments, I would love to meet your wife...she is obviously an angel! Diane