January 12, 2006

The Service

I had the funeral today. I wasn't sure how it would be. Funerals can be hit or miss for me. If the family holds it together... then so do I. If the family is a mess... then I am too. I can't take people grieving. I channel their grief, some cases magnified. For instance, when there was hope for all those miners, I watched the rescue on the TV. As soon as I heard they died, but one, I turned it off. I could not bear to watch the families grieve. It is more than I can take. Let them grieve in private with their families. Oh its awful.

So, I had some trepidation, but I had my tissues with me in case I was to become a puddle in the pew as its happened before. I left one funeral a few years ago, that I guess I should post on sometime as I was such a mess it was funny, that I would not have been surprised if someone yelled to the Church Custodian after, "Clean Up in Pew 52!!!!" I was a total Onion Head.

Today's Service:

It was hard to see the casket draped in the flag at the altar.

It was hard knowing that he was lying in it, in his dress uniform, in which he still fit.

It was hard to watch my friend the new widow, walking down the aisle, leading her family.

It was hard when one of my buddies from my old Bagpipe band came down the aisle piping Amazing Grace. Upon his return from the altar at the casket, I focused on the floor, averting my gaze from him, trying to keep it together. I know him well and I sure as hell didn't need to do anything to make piping at this great man's funeral any harder than it already was. Tears were streaming down my face.

It was hard to hear some of the personal remarks I heard expressed by people... that are not blog fodder. I can never print it, but let me say, that as they spoke, I thought, "This one is leaving a mark". There is a mark in my heart. Faces I will not forget.

It was hard hearing the recounting of his 3 1/2 years as a Japanese POW that started with the Bataan Death March. I know the story well, as I heard it personally from him, but it was still difficult to hear. Such brutality is difficult to stomach. Such tenacity mixed with luck to live... astounding. The Death March, the captivity, the unmarked boats hauling them to Japan only to be bombed by our own, his ship taking a hit and his swimming to shore... all of it. It was hard.

It was hard to read the 23rd Psalm as it is what kept him alive. He was a man of great faith, enormous faith and he told us many times it is what saw him through. His faith in God kept him alive. And I will never again read without thinking of him:

Yea though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,
I will fear no evil;
for Thou art with me;

For he lived this every day for those 3 1/2 years. That is the part he clung to.

But it was hardest to see the Veterans who came from all around to pay their respects. Many wore uniforms from organizations they were in with him... POW organizations or the VFW. Hats in hand, as the casket rolled back down the aisle with the pallbearers at each side, they saluted his casket and some reached out and touched it.

And it took all I had to not completely lose it. Our Veterans from WWII are dying at an astounding rate. People who have had such an impact on our lives... who sacrificed so much. They are dying. And I'm afraid their stories are going to be forgotten.

We cannot forget. We cannot quit listening. They will all be gone soon... and all that will be left is a distant memory of great people who served our country. I see it coming, and that in itself is the hardest of all.

He will be buried at Arlington next week.

Posted by Boudicca at January 12, 2006 09:30 PM | TrackBack

Thank you, Bou, for finding these words. Powerful.

And thank you for the forceful: "...We cannot forget...."

Posted by: David at January 12, 2006 10:28 PM

Thank you Bou. The men and women who fought and endured World War II will be forgotten as individuals althought the political leaders and Generals will be remembered as long as there are humans studying history-just as we now remember the legions of Rome but not their individual names. But humans will never forget the bravery and sacrifices

Posted by: GUYK at January 13, 2006 07:40 AM

He was a great man who endured enormous personal suffering for his country. I am forever grateful.

My Grandfather was also in WWII, but he has been gone nearly 30 years. I could never tell him what his sacrifice has meant to me.

Posted by: Jen H at January 13, 2006 08:41 AM

I recall there was a blog I read on a near-daily basis a couple of years ago, and the bloggess (female blogger? or do we "go Hollywood" and call all bloggers bloggers, regardless of gender?) was quitting blogging (and her job, perhaps) to take up a project of interviewing and taping and transcribing the stories of World War II vets. I cannot remember who it was doing this, but I wonder how the project's going.

Posted by: Bob at January 13, 2006 12:05 PM

So true, the funerals of the generation forged by the Great Depression and World War II are such sad memorials. But their deaths aren't tragic -- just very humbling. I passed up my dad in height forty years ago, but to this day I still look up to that leathery old man -- though now I have to bow my head to read the stone.

Posted by: BobW at January 13, 2006 06:24 PM

Bob- I think I heard the History channel is doing this and I do believe they are trying to get it all at FSU. There is a gentleman there I heard speak once that is trying to get all their stories. Any WWII memorbilia etc.

BobW- What a tremendous thing to say about your Dad...

Posted by: Bou at January 13, 2006 10:16 PM