Karma or Divine Intervention?

May 7, 2014 at 4:34 am (Uncategorized)

In the spring of 1964 I was on my way out of Fort Dix for a thirty day leave before departing for Vietnam. As I left the barracks for the last time I noticed something lying on my bunk. Picking it up, I discovered that it was a religious card depicting Saint Jude, the patron saint of lost causes. That was certainly appropriate, considering where I was headed. On the reverse side, my friend Eddie Naticha had written, “Jim, Best of luck till we meet again. Your friend, Eddie.”

Eddie and I had become buddies while attending radio school. He was about two years older than me, stocky with thinning blond hair and “Clark Kent” glasses. Eddie was a gentle soul with a warm smile who had served as an altar boy in his youth. I was in the class ahead of him, graduating about six weeks before he did. Eddie hadn’t gotten his new orders yet, but it was well known that most of us who completed the Intermediate Speed Radio Operators Course (ISROC) were destined for shipment to Vietnam.

Eddie’s thoughtful gesture touched me. He knew that I was going into harm’s way and might need a bit of divine intervention at some point. However, I wasn’t able to thank him personally because he was in class that morning and I was leaving for home. I put the card in my pocket and later stored it in the duffle bag that would accompany me overseas.

Going off to war had created serious new concerns for me that pushed communication with my friends far down the list of priorities. As a result, I never saw or heard from Eddie again. However, the image of Saint Jude, along with my John F. Kennedy silver half dollar and my Saint Christopher medal may have played a part in bringing me back safely from war-torn Vietnam. Who am I to discount karma like that? Today, the coin and the “Mister” Christopher medal (he’s no longer celebrated as a saint on the church calendar) are long gone, but the Saint Jude card sits framed on the desk in my office. I even used it during my Dad’s eulogy to demonstrate how many of us believe we will again meet our loved ones who have passed on.

Recently I began wondering what had become of Eddie. I can’t explain why that was suddenly important to me after so many years. It may just be that as we grow older those things begin to matter to us once again. Anyway, I Googled Eddie’s name and found an Edward Naticha from Staten Island. That must be him, I thought. I recalled that Eddie had lived in New York when we were in the Army. Digging further, I was stunned to learn that Eddie Naticha had passed away in 1987 at the age of forty-seven.

Almost all my childhood friends have passed on, so I understand what it is to endure that sort of loss. Yet, Eddie’s death affected me for a far different reason. I had never reciprocated by thanking him for his thoughtful gift. Neither had I contacted him to wish him Godspeed in his own journey. I began to wonder if those actions could possibly have transmitted some form of negative karma to Eddie, contributing to his early demise. Unlikely, I suppose, but how can I ever prove otherwise? I had looked up to Eddie almost the way I would have to an older brother. Now here I was at an age twenty-four years beyond what he had reached. Life can certainly be strange that way.

I wrestled with those thoughts for a few nights until I was finally able to come to terms with them. Truth be told, I seem to have come to terms with many of the events from my military days. I now know that I believe in karma and divine intervention much more strongly than I did previously. Perhaps they’re even one and the same. I just wish that I could have reached those conclusions before my friend Eddie Naticha passed away. It would have been nice to have seen him one more time.

Till we meet again, Eddie.



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