IMG_1429My traditional place was waiting for me.  Repeated services like this had taught me what to look for when the cues were clear.  I stood behind the pulpit and welcomed the handful of guests.

No one smiled.  Everyone was acting awkward.  The few adult men pulled on their collars cinched too tightly because of a quickly tied necktie.  Women sniffled with tissues tightly grasped in their hands.

My first duty was to welcome everyone to the service.  I read a eulogy.  It was a composition created by the family.

It traced the life of the man that we were honoring.  His simple casket was suspended over an open grave.  The lowering mechanism was silent for a moment.  Once I gave the cue to the director, it would be lowered into the earth.

The story of this man’s life seemed bigger than the crowd that had gathered to pay their last respects.  There were about a dozen guests.  Family members did not take note of the crowd size nor the elements of our simple service.

There was an US military liaison present.  He was not there to conduct the service.  His only purpose was to direct the firing squad, instruct the honor guard and to present the US flag to the family.  Everything else he made clear was in my jurisdiction as the presiding clergy.  I was happy to do so.

The family was strangers to me.  A local funeral home had made all of the arrangements.  It struck me that this loved one was a military hero of sorts.

His exploits and long years of service were recounted in the eulogy that I was reading.  It was moving to think that someone who had served his country in two major military conflicts was now being buried and I had the privilege of officiating his final farewell.

The family could see that the life of their loved one was stirring me as I read the account.  Several expressed their appreciation.  I told them that I am happy to thank them.

Taps was played on a recording by the liaison.  The guns fired a salute.  A folded USA flag was presented to the family.  The service was over quickly.  All of the military officials left immediately.  The family lingered.  I stayed with them.  Finally, the family representative that I had been dealing with from the inception came to thank me.  Sincerely, I thanked him for his father’s service to our great country.

photo credit: brucefong photography (USA Flag on the Saturn rocket located at NASA, Clear Lake, TX)