Tuesday, July 31, 2018

In Other Words: How Can You Regret Love?



This is a love story. It’s also about heroes. It’s also about loss. It’s also about August 1.

I initially spoke with Steve Ross regarding the August 1st 50th anniversary of his older brother being shot down over North Vietnam. But as our conversation progressed, I realized that wasn’t the story.

The Captain Joseph Shaw Ross Bridge is the formal name of the Highland Avenue bridge, named to honor Steve’s older brother, an outstanding high school athlete who always wanted to be a fighter pilot. He became one and was shot down on August 1, 50 years ago. His remains have never been found.

“He always wanted to be fighter pilot. He got to do it and that’s how he died,” Steve recalls.  Steve was a military airplane mechanic. He had to travel to northern Vietnam to replace a propeller on a particular plane that just happened to be where his brother was stationed. The brothers had the opportunity to hang out for the week. It was a very good week. Steve recalls, “I was getting to ready to board a plane to return when two colonels got me off the airplane and told me my brother’s plane was shot down. I stayed up there for a couple days hoping to find out about my brother but they didn’t find anything. I was devastated.” 

Photos of Joe Ross. Courtesy of Steve Ross. 


You would think that was the story, but Steve also lost his 10 year old brother to open heart surgery and his 16 year old sister to a burst cyst. Steve’s parents buried three of their children ages 10, 16, and 25.  Steve says, “I lost two brothers and two sisters and my mom and my dad. I am the only one left.”  The Anna Ross Scholarship at Highlands commemorates his sister.  These are the things we do to keep the memories alive of our loved ones.

Orangetheory Fitness Newport Pavilion. The best 1-hour workout in the country. 
Steve is now 71.  On the day we spoke, his son was undergoing brain surgery as the result of an accidental fall. I called him later to see how the surgery went. Unfortunately, his son died. He will be buried on his birthday, August 1.

Joe and Steve in Vietnam. Courtesy of Steve Ross. 


I can’t imagine his grief. I know that our families and friends will die. I know we will suffer loss. And I know that we sometimes struggle to remember faces, voices, and events as time moves forward.  But the love of family runs deep and we do what we must in order to preserve that. My heart breaks when I think about Steve Ross’ story. I cried when he told me that his son died. I could hear the pain in his speech.

And then I saw the placards around town to commemorate the passing of Michelle Chalk last August 1 from a tragic accident. And once again, I can’t imagine the loss.



Patty Chalk told me that “August 1, 2017 started as just an ordinary day in our home.  It ended with the realization that our daughter, Michelle, would never come home.  Over the past year, as we grieved our loss there are several consistent messages …. How can you regret love? …. The most common visitor to the cemetery are parents crying over the graves of their children.  To the community of Fort Thomas, who wrapped their loving arms around us, we thank them for their kindness and support. …. Michelle's life mattered to people, and they wanted to show they cared about her and about us.  As Michelle's parents, we knew how special she was.  The love and support we received validated it.” 

People often say how brave a person is who is suffering. But bravery has nothing to do with it. It’s a matter of love and determination and support. It’s what we do in order to survive. It’s how we live and love in the good times that help us cope with grief.

Located at 18 N. Fort Thomas Avenue in the Hiland Building. 
Most of us live with loss privately, but circumstances sometimes make that loss quite public. The Ross and Chalk families have been buoyed by the love and support of family, friends, and community. Their love is intense and deep and something to be admired. And they unfortunately share a sad anniversary on August 1.

The love story here is not just about how loss and pain affect us but how love comforts and guides us. We know that we cannot escape loss. It is one thing that we all will eventually share. But if we are open to love, then we have hope.

Steve Ross told me a number of times that his brother Joe was his hero. I’m telling you that Steve Ross is my hero.


And Patty Chalk speaks truth when she asks, “How can you regret love?”

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