Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Memorial Service For My Friend

I showed up about 20 minutes early.  I didn't want to miss anything, plus it was about 25 miles from my house and just wanted to make sure I didn't encounter a traffic snarl or something to hold me up.

My now-deceased friend's name is Boe, his son is Boe Jr., who greeted me and brought me up to the front.  I hugged Josie, she was teary-eyed - obviously - said God Bless you and moved back for others to shower attention on her.  This was an outdoor service, they all are there - you can't shoot rifles inside a building, not like THAT anyway.  They have "shelters" where the service is performed. It's open air but it has a cover and cement type benches.

Well, anyway, I started looking at the pics.  I had never seen a pic of my friend when he was young.  There was one of him when he had started in the Marines - at the age of 17.  Boe's daughter, Carla, came up and we were talking.  She said she had wished that they could make a video of the service but no-one has a cam-corder.  No, but I remembered that my digital camera is in the car and I just freshly recharged it.  I ran back to the car, got it out and started deleting videos I had on there.  I wanted to make sure I did not run out of memory space and those videos I had on there were nothing special.  Most of them aren't.

I came back and stood in the back. Boe had a lot of friends, but, there were about 30 people there.  Boe Jr. comes to the back just before the ceremony started and invited me up to the front: Josie wanted me up there and Boe Jr. said his dad would have wanted me there, too.  I was a bit overwhelmed by the honor I was given, but, honestly, Boe and I were VERY close friends.  I didn't expect that, but I followed him to the front and sat down in a bench off to the side.

I was astounded by this military ceremony.  I have seen such on TV, I have never experienced anything like this in person.  It was amazing, beautiful and graceful.  The American Legion personnel were standing up front and they recited a poem and some prayers out of a book.  But it was "automated", these men were there because they wanted to be there, not because they felt compelled, at least, I certainly got that impression.

Meanwhile, about 100 feet away and off to the side of the ramada, is what I will call it, 21 men fell into formation, rifles in hand.  A bugler, standing well off to the side, also fell into formation.

When the 3 up front got done, they motioned for 2 - Marines I guess, I don't know - obviously military - came walking up.  But it wasn't aloof walking.  It was slow and it was purposed.  Walking in graceful, perfected strides, it was a sight to behold.  The came up before the 3 at the front and saluted them.  It was  a slow, fluid movement.  Timed perfectly, the 2 had their hands going up to their forehead and back down in perfect alignment with each other.  One of them took the flag that was next to the urn full of my friend's ashes and slowly, purposefully inspected it, then the 2 turned towards each other as if they were a machine, it was that perfect.

They slowly began to unfold the flag.  My friend loved flags, he was always flying the U.S. flag out in front of his house.  When it was fully unfurled, the 21 men with rifles got into position and at command, fired of a volley - almost exactly at the same time.  Another command, another volley, this time it WAS all at the same time and VERY loud.  The 3rd time the same.  Then, the lone bugler began playing taps.  There was nothing flimsy, unprofessional or monotone about any of this.  His performance on the bugle was perfection as much as anything else there.  There wasn't a dry eye in the house.

He finished and the 1 holding the flag began methodically folding the flag back up.  Slowly, I mean, there was nothing rushed about any of this.  He wiped off the dust with his white-gloved hand on each fold.  Each fold was meticulously pleated by hand and tucked sharply.  When done, he handed the flag to his comrade, did another very slow and methodic salute, and then walked off the same way he had walked in.  He walked about 50 feet away, stopped, did an about-face and stood there, looking on. You can see this stuff on TV all you want, it is nothing like experiencing it in person.  The other Marine  took the flag, went to Josie, got down on one knee and spoke in a whisper to her.  I have no idea what he said, whatever it was, it was for her and her alone.  I wasn't sitting far away, it was just whispered.  He then got up, saluted her, turned, and walked off the same as he had walked in.

The 3 at the front also departed after one of them declared this was the end of the military rites.  A minister came up as well as a friend, and that was the end of it.

It is one of the most amazing things I have experienced in any recent times.  A little girl, however, wasn't so happy.  That was one of Boe's grand daughters who was balling.  She loved Boe and always wanted to be go to their house to visit.  I went up and hugged Josie and the rest of the family again.  Josie asked if I wanted to come to her house.  Yes, of course.  They treated me like I was a family member.  I'm not going to sit here and say that tears did not flow out of my eyes today.  I was a bit afraid to drive that old car to their house, from north Phoenix to the town of Maricopa, a pretty good drive.

I spent about 5 hours with them.  There was good food, some reminiscing, the little 11 year old girl and her little sister came up to the table after everyone had left.  I mean, it was quite a while before they left, but Josie did not want me to leave with them, so I stayed for several more hours.  We played Uno - lol - and then some other card game I can't remember the name of.  At around 4:15, I finally left.  Josie was tired and so was I - this kind of thing just takes it out of me.

I got home and now have uploaded the video to my computer.  I was not necessarily concerned about what it would turn out like at the time of taking it. I aimed it in the general direction, looked at the screen a few times to make sure it was getting it all in, but I was totally immersed in the moment and that camera wasn't necessarily a priority.  So, when I got a chance to look at it, I was pleasantly surprised that it had turned out as well as it had.  They wanted me to burn a CD of it, but, I can't.  The Kodak digital camera records in .mov and I find out that burning a .mov file to CD?  You have to convert it to a different format. I have spent an hour - more like 2 hours - trying to download free software to make that happen.  On my third download, it actually worked - until I played it.  Sound only, no video.

Normally, I upload my videos to YouTube, I don't try to burn them to CD's, so this was new territory. I haven't got it yet, either.  In fact, I may just take the memory card out of the camera and take it somewhere and pay to have a couple of CD's burned. I'm sure there must be someplace that does that.  I apparently can pay for real player service to burn the CD, but I'm not there yet.  I'll do whatever I have to, of course, to get the thing onto CD, that service I think is $29.99 to do it on my computer.

The day is over.  I'll deal with that tomorrow.  In fact, I'll just take the camera with me to work tomorrow and see if I can find some place that does that and drop it off on the way home.  Or, I may just pay the price and get the upgrade to real player.

Oh, and I can't upload this to youtube.  It is 22 minutes long.  I think there is another online forum that you can upload longer stuff, I don't remember what it is.  I might do that instead.  Or both.  Who knows.



Thursday 1/6/11

Heading out to the funeral in about an hour.  I haven't been to one in several years.  I don't expect to spend much time there, either, long enough to visit with his wife, watch the ceremony and then leave.  His wife will be surrounded by family and I am not going to interfere with that.  The thing is really just his ashes being brought to the cemetary and put into whatever they call those shelters for ashes.  He didn't want to be "spread out" anywhere, instead, his wife expects one day to be beside him in the form of a urn filled with her ashes.

Gruesome, I guess, but death is a real part of our lives.  I am glad that I don't have to do this very often, I can say that.

Anyway, I'm getting my clothes ready and such, so, I'm outta here.

Well I get a day off. Whether I go back out tomorrow remains to be seen. Right now? I/d be happy for a couple of days off, even if it means ...