Monday, April 20, 2009

Funeral Blues

Stop all the clocks, cut off the telephone,
Prevent the dog from barking with a juicy bone,
Silence the pianos and with muffled drum
Bring out the coffin, let the mourners come.

Let aeroplanes circle moaning overhead
Scribbling on the sky the message He is Dead.
Put crepe bows round the white necks of the public doves,
Let the traffic policemen wear black cotton gloves.

He was my North, my South, my East and West,
My working week and my Sunday rest,
My noon, my midnight, my talk, my song;
I thought that love would last forever: I was wrong.

The stars are not wanted now; put out every one,
Pack up the moon and dismantle the sun,
Pour away the ocean and sweep up the woods;
For nothing now can ever come to any good.

W.H. Auden

I don't think that anyone could have asked for a better funeral than the one Morris was given today.

He had a Firefighter standing guard next to his casket before and during the service. When we walked out to get into our cars to go to the cemetery, there was a police car, the Fire Captain's official vehicle, and the ladder truck all decked out with black crepe ribbon.

The procession went past the firehouse where he spent 37 years of his life working. As we rounded the corner, I saw all the on duty guys standing at attention out front....with a single set of bunkers and a helmet in front of them. The hearse paused, and they saluted.

That sight brought on the tears I had been trying to contain all morning.

The PD had blocked off all the streets on the route so we could pass unhindered. People stopped their cars when they saw us coming; other people had come out of their homes to see the procession. Old men took off their ball caps and women placed their hands over their hearts as we passed by. Morris made quite an impression on the people of that town over the years, apparently.

At the cemetery there was a VFW honor guard and another FD honor guard. The FD rang the bell for Morris...the 3-3-5 sequence of chimes that every firefighter hates to hear because it means that they're burying one of their own.

The VFW gave him a 21-gun salute and presented his son, my father-in-law, with the folded flag. That made me cry, too. I think that every military spouse, when they see or hear that presentation, thinks and worries that one day they'll be on the receiving end because they'll be burying a husband or wife far too soon.

Before the casket was closed, I watched as my father-in-law slipped a commemeration coin my husband was presented into the pocket of Morris' FD dress uniform. I promised Urbie I'd be there when that happened, and I was. Then, I leaned in and kissed him or his forehead one last time. I know he couldn't hear me, but I told him I loved him and that I love his grandson, too. My tears fell onto his skin, and they were still there as I watched the lid of the casket close.

I fucking hate funerals, but I have to say that as funerals go, this was the classiest, most meaningful one I've ever attended.

Some say that the true measure of a man can only be judged by the amount of people at his funeral. If that is truly the case, then...well, I'll just say this: the line for the visitation yesterday went out of the funeral home and around the block, it was standing room only at the funeral service today, and the funeral procession consisted of over 40 vehicles (those were just the ones I could count when we got to the cemetary and were waiting for everyone to arrive so we could start the graveside service). I think that that says far more about my grandfather (and he was MY grandfather too. When he heard that I didn't have any grandparents, he told methat I could share him and Ethel; that they'd be my surrogates) than any words I could write here.

Rest well, Morris. Your duty is done.

In Loving Memory of Morris Frederick

14 August 1922 - 16 April 2009

He did not go gentle into that good night.

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