These kinds of memorial services really are for those left behind by the dearly departed. They give the family support through crushing grief, they give the community an opportunity to honor people like Walt who live their family values daily, who give us their time and expect little in return. The thing that most struck me is that a repetition of these memorial gatherings, time after time, creates a sort of shared bond...the attendees change but honoring the dead strengthens our ties to friends, family and strangers alike. It is part of the notion of community.
It is a physical reality, something that is needed even more in these days when the ephemeral Internet connection has become the standard for relationships with acquaintances, sometimes replacing the chat over the back fence or chance meeting in the produce section of the local market. Walt was a great one for chatting over the fence between our place and the fire station and he always had something nice to say.
The gathering at a memorial creates moments that are shared and which are memorable. Yesterday that included shared tears as the young granddaughter spoke of her Pappa (and that she was his monkey and that she would miss him) and those tears drew the crowd together. You cold hear people sniffling and see them wiping their eyes.
The sweet plaintive notes of the bugle at the end of Taps hung on the air. That shared experience, for that moment, broke down the walls between strangers. Due to my own loss I have found memorials and funerals to be extraordinarily difficult to attend, but now I can see the band of connection...from one service to another...between the people who have come to honor the ones we have lost. Maybe the next time it will be easier now that I can think of it that way. This might not be making too much sense to you, dear reader, but with luck you won't have to test it out any time soon.
And so the connections hold. Yesterday's service was held in the same chapel at the cemetary where we buried our son. It was expected that memories would rush in, but it ended up being a comforting thing for me to experience. Walt was an exemplary member of Gold Ridge and a fine human being. My son was also a fine human being. Here is a tip of the hat to Walt and to Max, and to the friends and loved ones honored in between.