A soft Spring rain gently mists the windows, while the wipers softly keep time to the sound of drums pounding their relentless beat.
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As we turn the corner, I see a huge crowd has gathered to witness the spectacle...hands to their hearts...as the flag draped casket is removed and given over to the Honor Guard who will escort him to his final resting place. We silently take our places and while the Chaplain intones the invocation, my mind wanders back to another time...another place.
A curly haired toddler clinging to my skirts, not wanting to let go;
A five year old, trying to master his bike without training wheels;
A little leaguer, hitting his first home run;
Handmade Valentines, stuck to my refrigerator long after the holiday is gone;
A high school freshman, nervously preparing for his first date;
A handsome young man at his Senior Prom;
His first car (and the sleepless nights that followed, waiting to hear him pull into the driveway!)
The sounds of laughter permeating the house as he entertained his friends.
Abruptly, I am shocked back to reality by the sound of rifles being fired in salute, followed by the plaintive strains of taps,the last note of which is left trailing softly into the atmosphere, almost as a final sigh at the incongruity of it all.
The Adjutant hands me the carefully folded flag that had been removed from the casket in preparation for the burial. His softly weeping siblings, place a hand on my shoulder and I glance at my husband, whose trembling chin belies the stoic stance he has exhibited throughout this ordeal.
I know that our lives have been altered forever...there is a void that can never be filled. "He was a Hero" we have been told, over and over again, as if that could somehow assuage our grief. I kneel at the grave and sob a final farewell, dropping a crumpled rose into the cavity.
As I slowly rise to face the endless months and years that lie ahead, I am struck by an old adage: "Old men plot the wars...Young men die in them!" And I silently add: "And their loved ones die along with them!)
Rest in Peace my son.