an emotional farewell

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Today we laid to rest my father in law John. It was an immensely emotional experience. He had a military burial. Military burials are all about respect.

the day was rainy and gray and cold. We drove up to Willamette National Cemetery and met our family. We were instructed to line up our cars in a certain section of the cemetery and wait for our escort. It’s an odd experiece to just sit and wait. Shortly before 10:30 (the time for the funeral to begin) our escort came for us. We followed. As we came around a bend we could see a wooden ‘shelter’ and in front of that shelter was an armed honor guard. They stood there in respectful formation and directed us to the shelter. The moment I saw the guard I began to cry. I know the guard is standard but I felt…John was important to us and here was this honor guard showing their respects because he was important to them. I don’t know if I can describe it. It was overwhelming. After being seated in this lovely shelter, one of the directors at the cemetery very respectfully addressed us and started the military part of the funeral. They started with a 3-gun salute. It’s very jarring, hearing those shots and yet somehow, a release. I was very stirred by it. The whole time I was thinking “John would have liked this!”. Following salute ‘taps’ was played. I’ve heard taps played any number of times in movies and the like but it never had meaning until I heard it played today. It was grief and release all together. When taps was completed the honor guard did the presentation of the flag, an elaborate unfolding, refolding and presentation of the flag to the widow “on behalf of a grateful nation”. Then, they presented the shell casings to JoAnn with more words of gratitude. JoAnn said they looked in her eyes the whole time and she felt their sincerity. It was beautiful.
When the military honors concluded my John spoke. He had just a few minutes to speak about his father. He was very emotional. It took a while for him to gather his composure but when he did he spoke about how much he admired his father and he spoke specifically about the 3 things his father taught him- the importance of being a good borrower (always return what you borrow & return it in the same or better condition that you recieved it in), the value of hard work, and service. It was very sweet. I was proud of my Johnny for all that he said and for his willingness to expose his true feelings for his father. We completed the service with John reading a poem titled “May you always walk in sunshine”.
I don’t know how to express how such a short (less than 30 minutes long)service could be so affecting and touching.

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3 responses »

  1. Hope, you should come with us to Gibbs this next Memorial Day. I love military services, they always make me cry but in a good way. I took flowers for Richard last year. Shortly after that, I put down cold, hard, cash for two plots, side by side on the hill.

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