I’m feeling a bit of mild melancholy this morning. I have a “feeling of pensive sadness”…without any obvious cause.” Perhaps, though, this “feeling” began at the funeral service yesterday for a dear friend for over 45 years. (I officiated at the weddings of her two daughters, baptized her grandchildren, attended her 75th birthday party, etc. She died at the age of 96). She served in the U.S. Navy from 1945 to 1958—and she was one of the first six enlisted women to be sworn into the Regular Navy on July 7, 1948. Her husband, also in the Navy, was lost at sea on the USS Scorpion in 1968. Military funeral honors were rendered by the local American Legion Post and representatives of the U.S. Navy, complete with the three-volley salute, the playing of “Taps,” and the presentation of the flag to her family “on behalf of a grateful nation.”
My pensive (thoughtful, thinking, reflecting, musing) mood probably started there. It led me later in the day to recall all those funerals I’ve officiated where military honors were rendered. More than that, this pensive mood led me to remember the men and women so honored. They were more than veterans, they were more than parishioners, many of them were my friends. I visited them in their homes, in hospitals, in their joys and in their griefs, in their good times and in their bad times. We were comrades who shared a common bond—our military service—some of us in peacetime and some in times of war.
Bob, Alfred, Ray, Byron, Jack, Larry, Ernie, Bud, and Willard gathered together one Veteran’s Day (2002, maybe) for a photo. Most of them had served in WWII and/or the Korean War era. They are all deceased now—I officiated at each of their funerals—where military honors were rendered for their service and a flag presented to their family “on behalf of a grateful nation.”
There’s a grief that can’t be spoken,
There’s a pain goes on and on.
Empty chairs at empty tables,
Now my friends are dead and gone…
Phantom faces in the window,
Phantom shadows on the floor,
Empty chairs at empty tables
where my friends will meet no more.