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Honor Thy Dead.

15 Oct 2017 18:15 #1 by ARLewis
ARLewis ► Honor Thy Dead.
Honor Thy Dead.

A good friend of mine recently lost the only grandfather he has ever known. He had expressed his worries about the fact that he didn’t feel as sad about it as he felt he should have, that he should have felt “something” more than just the ambivalent calm that seemed to pervade him. Sure, he cried at the funeral when the Marines walked in, unfolded and folded the flag, the 21 gun salute occurred, and then the Marine presented the flag to his grandmother and spoke the words of a grateful nation. But outside of that, nothing.

I told him that that was probably all his inner self needed to do...that the brief release of pressure caused by the solemn moment was his subconscious’ way of letting the proper amount of pressure release that was needed so that he didn’t explode. Adding of course that we wouldn’t want that to happen, now would we.

He told me that I was being an idiot.

I of course agreed and apologized.

Seeing that he probably could use a proverbial shoulder to cry on and to hope to let him release what may have still been bothering him, I told him to talk about the first thoughts that popped into his head about that day. This is what he told me.

“I remember vowing to myself that I would be by my grandmother’s side for the day, helping out whenever and however I could. See, I didn’t have a chance to do anything specific before hand like my cousins or sister. I felt worthless, so I stood beside my grandma while she was receiving condolences from people who came to the funeral. I felt like a guard of sorts, or perhaps a nursemaid, in case she needed help up from her chair. I sat behind her the entire time and helped her out when it was over, carrying her oxygen container the whole way.”

“When I left with my parents to go to the wake, the flag that my grandma was given from the Marine during the service was sitting in the back of my parent’s convertible. When I got in, I picked it up and held it protectively in my arms, as if guarding it with my life. No one, nothing, was going to harm or otherwise mar this flag. It was my grandpa.”

“Well before my grandpa passed, I had a trip to visit some friends in St.Louis planned. My family had then planned to have the funeral the day I was supposed to leave. My grandma wanted it done as fast as possible and that was the best day it could all happen. When I found out about the day, I started to cancel my planned trip and had already told my friends in St. Louis. My parents and later my grandma told me not to. If I could fly out later in the day, that would be fine. ( I ended up having to schedule a train for that evening as no other flights were going out). But I shouldn’t cancel as there was nothing else I could have done.”

I asked him if his grandfather would have wanted him to cancel his trip. He eventually slowly shook his head.

“He would have said no and to go have a beer for him.”

I then took him to a local bar and we both had a drink in honor of his grandfather...which, in a way, was kind of weird since neither of us drink much, nor do we like beer. During that drink, more spilled out of him.

“But everything that day was a selfish cop out. Staying by my grandma was just a way of not having to talk or deal with anyone else. Holding that flag was just an excuse to not have to look around or deal with the world. And I left the wake early just so I could make my train. I didn’t stay there when I should have.”

I asked him if he enjoyed the trip to St. Louis...he nearly cried as he nodded. I then asked him if that was what his grandfather would have wanted him to do...and he nodded again.

“I played lazer tag,” he said.

I found myself later that day starting the research to talk about some the ways various cultures in the world honor their dead: Memorial Day, All Saints Day, the Mexican Dia de los Muertos, the Celtic Samhain, Egyptian mummification, the Japanese Bon Festival, I could have gone on and on. I also began to makes notes on things like flowers on gravestones, special meals prepared, pictures portraying loved ones, in general, various kind of funerary rites and procedures.

After I opened an email from my friend a couple days later, I archived my research and proceeded to write out the above notes. I realized that he had done what he could to honor his grandfather by what he did that day more so than any academic information I could give you.

His email was rather short:

“Hey there, I just wanted to say thank you for being there for me the other day and getting me to talk about that day. About my grandpa. I still feel like an emotionless schmuck for not “feeling” more, but I think I’ll be okay. You helped me realize that I was just wallowing in self hatred for something that wasn’t true. I may never go and have that beer, shot and a beer actually, that he’d probably want me to have. (I had orange juice whenever I went to a bar with him). I ended up having a screwdriver at the wake. I don’t think I told you that.
But I wanted to share with you something I was able to do very recently, that used what talents I do have. Thank you again for listening and getting me to listen to what my heart was telling me. - D.A.G.”

The following was added as a postscript:


Think about the smiles,
The everything that was and
Hold it in your heart.

A flag, a brass shell,
Dog tags, a shot and a beer,
Rummaging around.

Flowers and pictures,
Stories and songs, life should go on,
As if none are gone.

For never will they
Be forever apart from
Those of love and life.

Live as their love shows
How they loved, never in return,
But forever first.

Think about the smiles,
The everything that was and
Hold it in your heart.



There are many ways that we as humans honor our dead. Every culture is but a variation on a theme. Honor and love. Remember not the death, but do honor to the life. Is there a moral to this story? I don’t think so. Perhaps one day, I’ll be remembered, But please, skip the shot and a beer.


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