Saturday, March 28, 2009

Beloved Best Friends

I don’t know where to begin.

All is well.

That seems the best place to start.

The memorial celebration of Chuck’s father’s life last Sunday afternoon went just the way Dad wanted it. Actually, it was precisely the way Dad wanted it. Ten years ago, when Chuck’s Mom passed away, Dad asked us all to prepare a funeral ceremony as well as a memorial celebration for Mom. We did and after it was all over, Dad said: “When my time comes please do it exactly the same way for me”. We were happy to honor his wishes. About twenty people who had known Dad gathered together; we visited, we had refreshments. Folks took one of the memorial cards we had created. Chuck read the eulogy he had written for his Dad. Then we sat around and shared stories about Dad (and of course, Mom - it's hard to reminisce about the one and not include the other, and no-one tried).  We laughed; there were tears shed and we know everyone left glad to have been there.  

Monday morning ten of us convened at the Tahoma National Veterans Cemetery under early spring sun and mostly clear skies. The ceremony took place in a lovely open, roofed-shelter.  Dad's urn was at the front along with a lit candle in glass.  There were two parts to the ceremony.  The first part was provided and was a complete surprise to us. It was organized and presented by a Veterans of Foreign Wars chaplain, and a five-person VFW honor guard with rifles, all volunteers, and two active duty soldiers.  The chaplain welcomed us and said some appropriate words, then Dad received a salute of three five-gun volleys from the honor guard.  The two active duty soldiers performed the military flag ceremony, crisply folding a nine-foot American flag into a triangle with five stars showing on the field.  One of the soldiers knelt in front of Chuck where he was sitting to present him with the folded flag telling him of the "thanks of a grateful nation" for Dad's Army service.  A bugler played taps. It was profoundly moving and brought us to tears.

The bugler and the honor guard quietly evaporated, the chaplain excused himself and we proceeded with the second part of the ceremony, the part which we had pre-planned.   Our part included a variety of readings delivered by the immediate family.  Together, all present recited the Mourner's Kaddish and another prayer, El Moleh Rachamim.  We then caravanned to the gravesite and all gathered around the grave which had been pre-excavated in front of Mom's stone marker.  The cemetery staff lowered Dad's urn into the hole then moved off to a corner of that section of the cemetery.  Chuck’s sister read aloud a letter she had written to Dad, then added the letter next to the urn.  One of us placed a small stone, the kind you leave when you visit a family grave, in on top of the urn, then we all followed suit. In keeping with another Jewish tradition, Chuck shoveled some soil over the urn and passed the shovel to each person present, each of whom added some soil on top of the urn.  We spoke some more of Dad, placed flowers either side of Mom's marker, then withdrew to allow the cemetery staff to complete their duties.

In a few weeks, a new marker will be placed which will have both Mom and Dad’s dates and a new inscription: Beloved Best Friends.

It was all just the way Dad wanted it to be.


George Geder said...

"Guided by the Ancestors"

dancingmorganmouse said...

It sounds just perfect. Welcome home.

Sue said...

In my overly emotional state this morning, you've made me cry! It sounds like the perfect ending to the wonderful life of a much loved man.

Thinking of you and wishing you both peace,
Sue x

barbie2be said...

what a beautiful and loving tribute.