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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Military Funeral

Writing can be cathartic and I need cathartic right now.

While I don't mean to over-post on my father's death I do want to write about his funeral. I feel like this is the final chapter in my journey of saying goodbye to him. I need to finish this chapter before I get back to life blogging about our vacation to Denmark (no I still haven't finished those posts!), and the NDSC convention and whatever else comes our way.

I have been a part of the military since the day I was born. My dad served 20 years in the Air Force and I knew a military funeral, steeped in tradition and ceremony, would be so very emotional. As if a funeral for your parent isn't emotional enough on it's own accord. I knew there would be an honor guard, a flag-draped coffin, the folding and presenting of the flag to the next of kin, the volley salute, and the playing of Taps.

I saw my father take his last breaths. I saw him in the casket at the viewing the day before the funeral. I was numb. It was, and really still is, surreal.

Seeing his flag-draped coffin being taken out of the hearse by the military honor guard somehow made it that more real.

Even though it was the same casket in front of me during the funeral service, when I saw it at the cemetery it hit me harder and I kept thinking, "That's my father. That's my father in that casket. This is really happening."

I wasn't prepared for those emotions. And I most certainly wasn't prepared for the emotions I felt when I glanced over at my brother. My brother, who was enlisted in the Air Force and then the Reserves, and who, a couple of years ago, commissioned in to the Army...my brother in his Army Dress Blues. He was standing on the path the honor guards were walking with the casket and he was saluting. (As was Joe, in his Air Force Service Dress). It wasn't that they did anything unusual, because of course they would be saluting a flag-draped coffin of a veteran; standing at attention and rendering respect and honor for the deceased. But this was my brother, and he was saluting our father's casket and it hurt my heart to see that, because I know that he was struggling with composure just as much as I was. The unbelievable-ness that we were burying our father much sooner than we ever thought we would be.

After the somberness of the flag-folding and presenting to his wife I prepared myself for the volleys they were going to fire.

Each of the three shots made me cry harder than the last. Each of the shots made it more final. I wanted to scream out "no!" with each of the shots. I just wanted my father back.

When the playing of Taps started I thought my knees were going to buckle. I wanted nothing more than to crumble to the ground and sob until I had nothing left. I didn't want to be standing there, having my father honored with the playing of Taps. I wanted to be back at his house talking about the Red Sox. This description of Taps couldn't be more accurate, "There is something singularly beautiful and appropriate in the music of this wonderful call. Its strains are melancholy, yet full of rest and peace. Its echoes linger in the heart long after its tones have ceased to vibrate in the air.        
                      - from an article by Master Sergeant Jari A Villanueva, USAF

I described the witnessing of a military funeral for one's own father as "poignantly beautiful, knee-buckling, and heart-breaking all at once."

May you rest in peace now Dad, your body free from the pain of cancer, and knowing that you gave it one helluva fight for nearly 3 years. Goodbye, Dad, I love you.

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Zoey's mom, Heather said...

Continued prayers of strength for the days ahead.

We will find our way Michelle.The thing is, now we have become children who say " I lost my mom/father a week ago, a month ago, a year ago, 10 years ago ... and so on." Surreal to say the least.

The new normal is not one I am finding I am liking. My sadness ebbs and flows and my tears come at the most inexplicable moments. But I am using my mothers courageous spirit to guide me. I am certain you are doing the same.

Take care and keep writing.A good form of therapy if you ask me.

Anonymous said...

Michelle, as I read your post ,I cry for you and your brother. Your dad was a wonderful father!! He passed away, like you said, to early in his life. I am glad you and Mike were able to be with him during the last week of his life. Love Mom

SK3 said...

I know your pain, Michelle. My beloved dad died at 55 after a 3 year battle with cancer. I felt an actual physical pain in my chest, but it was just the pain of a deep sorrow. I was also with him as he breathed his last breath.

The pain does lesson, but it takes time.

May your father's memory be a blessing to you.

Anonymous said...

For some reason the tradtions of a milatary furneral make it even harder. My grandfather who was in the navy died 6 years ago of a heart attack. He was 84. I was only 8 but remeber bawling. The taps got to me the most too.

Dena said...

i lost my dad to pancreatic cancer 12 years ago and as you have so sadly learned you have a life before that will be very different from the one after you lose a parent...there's something so defining about the death of a daddy
i am so sorry for your loss because there are truly no words of comfort

Stephanie T. said...

This brought tears to my eyes. The photos are beautiful and the words poignant. Prayers for you and your family as you grieve your beloved father.

Bailey's Leaf said...

Write about your father's death and funeral as much and as often as you need. In the end, this blog is your journal. The post was beautiful and it was lovely for someone to share photos with you. Thank you for sharing all of this with us and giving us the other side of a military service than what we are used to seeing.

Our prayers to you and your family.

ChupieandJ'smama (Janeen) said...

HUGS Michelle. My prayers continue for your family.

The plus15 Campaign said...

Michelle, we at DSRTF are saddened to hear of your loss -- so sorry for your whole family. Wishing you comfort, strength, and peace.

Overwhelmed! said...

I described the witnessing of a military funeral for one's own father as "poignantly beautiful, knee-buckling, and heart-breaking all at once."

Having gone through this recently myself, I couldn't agree with you more, Michelle.

My sympathies are with you. I know the adjustment is not easy. Email me anytime you need to talk.