My Memorial Day

I heard the 21-gun salute, I saw the folded flag handed to my Great Grandmother, but I still couldn’t believe that he was gone.

And I wasn’t the only one. I saw my cousin Alex crying on his wife’s shoulder, tears flowing freely down his brother Evan’s face, both mourning the loss of their Grandfather, one of the bravest men I ever knew.

I was at the V.A.. I saw the newly dug grave; saw the machine that would lower his casket, the casket that looked so noble draped in the flag, into the frozen Earth. My hot tears stung my frozen cheeks, and they, together with the snow flurries that were floating around, fell peacefully to the ground.

My throat was dry, it was hard to sing, but somehow, I found my voice. It wasn’t easy, but somehow, I whispered the words to Chris Tomlin’s “Amazing Grace”, the one with a bridge of “My Chains are Gone”.

And then, all of a sudden, I wasn’t in the graveyard anymore. It wasn’t a cold winter morning, and he hadn’t died from Alzheimer’s.

FDR inhabited the oval office, and, at age 18, he had just gotten married. She was 16. Leonard and Mary Lee were just starting off. She quit school to keep house for him, and to prepare for the birth of their first child.

But he wouldn’t be there to see the birth of his beautiful baby girl. He left, along with thousands of other young men who knew that they had a duty to America; he left for a year long deployment to fight in the European theater.

I saw the letters that they wrote back and forth. I saw her tell him about his daughter, Vickie. “She has your nose” she told him. I saw him tell her about the weather and the food and how much he missed her. And I read him promising his unending devotion and love for her. I read as she, in her own delicate, sweet way, assured that the feeling was mutual. As I realized that, even though they were an ocean apart, they were just as in love as ever, and just as committed to forever, my tears fell faster and hotter.

And then fast forward.
His homecoming.
The birth of 4 more babies, 2 girls and two boys.
Great grandchildren.

And then, the Alzheimer’s. And as fast as it took for him to kiss her when he got home, as quickly as she rushed into his arms, I was brought back to the present.

I had traveled through time, through 70 years of her being right by his side. And she still is. She hugged his coffin. And, she whispered into the box, whispering to her husband one final time.

“I love you”

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