Average Jane



Black on black. Green on green.

The first thing I saw were the flags held high by veterans, somber and still, their jeans and leather vests a stark contrast to the color coded attendees approaching the church: black on black of friends and family, green on green of his peers. The air was heavy on me as I walked with hesitation toward the unknown. While it was sadness that struck me first, it was fear that beat down on me then.

Mourners filled the church, hundreds of them silently waiting for the service to begin. I didn’t know them. Mostly because I didn’t know him. But I knew his wife. I knew her family. I knew she loved him and that now she and her son and the baby she didn’t know was there until after he was gone were no longer who I knew at all. I knew that as the processional rang out and she entered the church behind her husband now departed, she was changed. Shattered. And I wept. I wept selfishly, mourning her loss of innocence and of my own. My peers were old enough to be widows.  Not just husbands and wives, parents and homeowners. But they were old enough to have all of that and have it ripped away.

Not long before the funeral I heard a man speak: “These men and women overseas, they aren’t all heroes. Just because they fight in a war doesn’t make them heroes.”  And I’ll give him that. it is no secret that I take issue with this war. But sitting in that church I dare him to say that this man wasn’t. Take away his uniform and his posthumous gold star. Take away the Honor Guard. Take away the words of memorium read by the brother of his roommate at West Point, who was still “over there” fighting… who had lost his other roommate years before. Take it all away and then look into the eyes of his father and his son and his grieving, empty wife and tell me he wasn’t a hero. I was torn sitting there, listening to stories of combat and drunken commraderie. Of missions and bases and warfare that until that day lived “over there” with the rest of the men and women I’ll never meet. Much like I never met Him. But I have no doubt that he was a hero to more than those he fought with and more than those he fought for. Because it was in his time of not-fighting that he was the hero indeed.

The procession to Arlington leaves from my street tomorrow morning. It’s the street we grew up on, her family and mine, and the street where my friend was living while waiting for him to come home. He just wasn’t supposed to come home this way. And tomorrow, with all the pomp and circumstance, He will be taken to Arlington and laid to rest, a path that is driven too often from my street in suburban Maryland — the second fallen soldier to be taken from one little street in just under 3 years.

I wish I could be there, but I can’t. Even as I type this I question whether I could bear it. Seeing her at the funeral was bad, but it felt removed. She was out of context. I could almost float above it all for moments at a time. But seeing her on the street where we played would be too close. He was taken too soon.

I didn’t know him. But I know that He was loved.

Do not stand at my grave and weep,
I am not there, I do not sleep.

I am in a thousand winds that blow,
I am the softly falling snow.
I am the gentle showers of rain,
I am the fields of ripening grain.

I am in the morning hush,
I am in the graceful rush
Of beautiful birds in circling flight,
I am the starshine of the night.

I am in the flowers that bloom,
I am in a quiet room.
I am in the birds that sing,
I am in each lovely thing.

Do not stand at my grave and cry,
I am not there. I do not die.

-Mary Elizabeth Frye

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Comments

  1. * LiLu says:

    This is an absolutely beautiful tribute.

    | Reply Posted 8 years, 3 months ago


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