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Thursday, November 15 2018 @ 11:03 am PST

A Grateful Nation, a Grateful Family

General NewsWe buried my grandfather yesterday.

We buried my grandmother at the same national cemetery years ago, but that was different. I was running late that day, so I barely spoke to the staffers, and since she was "just" a spouse there of course were no military honors. But yesterday is forever etched in my memory, not only for our own loss, but because of walking the same path as the Gold Star families.

The VA administration is profoundly screwed up, but the people working at the national cemetery were wonderful. When we arrived we discovered that multiple issues had been mishandled by the funeral home. On a half hour's notice, they got 3 National Guardsmen and 6 VFW Marines to perform full military honors, including a bugler and rifle volley. Words cannot convey the depths of my gratitude that we could give my grandfather his proper sendoff.

Yet it was also a stark reminder of the road other families must walk. We knew my grandfather's death was coming. But how does someone stumble through it all when the death is a shock? How do you keep the scream from bursting out of your chest when the last salute is fired?

I've been to a lot of funerals. The worst ones are the structureless ones, where the people present are left to the sum of their emotions. Grief needs structure. It needs familiar words and days off work and black clothes to tell the world to back off. My family hasn't been able to take time away from other responsibilities, and that has taken a terrible toll over the last two weeks. But at the cemetery they reminded us to silence our phones, effectively shutting out the rest of the world for a time. It was a time for honor, a time for grief. We shut out the world but connected with the unique brotherhood of all who grieve there.

The gift of the national cemeteries is the reminder that we are part of something bigger than ourselves and our immediate families. Every time I visit, I enter in grief but leave in gratitude.

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