Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Death, Mourning & Today

My handling of death is based on being a military brat. No matter what base we were stationed at, almost everyone was from somewhere else.  Your extended family was never nearby, so everyone around you was reasonably young and healthy. Death for us was something that happened suddenly, unexpectedly, and usually connected to war. It was also something that happened elsewhere.

During the Vietnam War, when an Army sedan pulled up in front of a house and two or three dress uniformed men would go to the door, it was scary. Even though my friends and I didn't fully realize what it was about, all of us knew it meant someone's father was not coming back. During that war, all of the dead, at least the ones that were found, were brought home for funerals. I was lucky, my Dad came back, unwounded. I had a few friends who lost fathers and worse another whose pilot father was shot down and is still, to date, missing.

As an adult, stationed in Europe, I toured several American cemeteries from both World War I and World War II. All of them were beautiful and well-kept and appropriate monuments to the sacrifice made. I wondered how their families dealt with being told their loved one was dead, and instead of coming home to be buried would be interred in France, Luxembourg, or the Netherlands. They were given really horrible news, and yet no way to formally part ways with their loved one. There was no period in the end. Sad.

Before the Gulf War started, they requested volunteers to serve as escorts for the expected casualties that would be coming home. I did volunteer but was never called upon before I was deployed.

It's been over six months since my father passed away. Almost all of the personal business needing to be handled has been finished. Among the still outstanding are benefits due from the VA, of course. By the way, the people at the VA have been terrific, I blame the bureaucracy for the delay. As a result of those tasks being done, my father now turns mostly to memory instead of someone I deal with on an almost daily basis. This isn't to say that I'm not reminded of him several times every day by something that happens or something I do that I inherited from him. Just the formal mourning is coming to an end for me. 

I'm not really sure how I feel about that, although I understand it is healthy and normal. It just seems strange. I miss him the most when I want to share something. When a good thing happens or the great-granddaughter he never met does something cute the happy share-ables. Instead, I close my eyes and imagine telling him and him reacting as expected. My Dad had a great laugh and a great smile. In my mind and heart, he always will.