This year was my first Memorial Day going to the services and ceremonies held at the school I work for, a military school. I want to say something about the ceremony of it, with a Major General (and graduate of our school) giving remarks and the reading of the names of the students and faculty of our school who died in every war America has fought since WWI. But I haven't been able to put together coherently my own reaction to and thoughts about this solemn occasion.
Instead, I will speak of death in another way, offering a couple vignettes.
Over the weekend, my mother-in-law flew with Lauren and our little Sweetpea to Atlanta and back. On the return flight, she sat next to a woman with a terminal illness who was flying to Indianapolis to see her family one last time. She seemed to be at peace with it all--enough so that she was able to talk about it with a stranger.
Back in my hometown, I grew up going to church with a couple who were pillars of the community in a very real sense. They both served out careers as teachers, but more than that they were active not only in our church community but in many other organizations. He was my 7th grade science teacher and a Deacon and Elder in our church; I never had her as a teacher, but she was my choir director in the church choir as well as the adviser for a number of years of the 4-H club I was in. I was a boy who respected adults, and they were probably two of the adults outside my family that I respected most.
His health has been failing of late, and he found himself recovering after a fall in the same nursing home my mother was in. His wife, still very spry in her 80s, visited him daily. A few weeks ago, she was diagnosed with cancer--cancer that had permeated her body and, the doctor said, would soon bring her life to an end. Her family and her community braced for a terrible, unexpected loss.
She died this weekend. Twelve days ago, she traded in their two cars, because her husband will never drive again, and bought a new car. The first car, in the 81 years of her life, that she had bought.