We interrupt the expected post on my trip to South Africa with an update of family doings.
My sister’s wishes for after her death (which was the first week of December) consisted of (1) being cremated and (2) being buried in Arlington Cemetery (being allowed due to her six years of military service in the early 70s). My brother-in-law, being reasonable, delayed the Arlington burial until warmer weather. The time set was for this past Friday.
Arlington Cemetery is a hallowed and honored place. Among other things, there is the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier and JFK’s grave. I could not help but feel overwhelmed and touched by the immensity of the sacrifice that was laid out before my eyes. Despite non-feelings for my sister, my eyes leaked at the solemnity and honor the cemetery represented.
We drove to a place where we were to meet the honor guard. Here, my sister’s ashes and an American flag were placed in a casket atop a caisson. We walked behind the caisson for the final quarter mile, led by a small military band and further honor guard flight, to the columbarium (where they place the ashes for final rest). At a small chapel, there were final words spoken by a chaplain and the flag was folded and presented to my niece. A bugler played “Taps” (always heart rending) and a 21 gun salute was rendered. A shorter walk to the niche in a wall where the remains would be placed and the ceremony was done.
All this was done by members of a military unit who are trained to treat the remains of fallen comrades with utmost respect and dignity. The uniforms were crisp, as was the slow march behind and in front of the casket. Pomp and circumstance does not begin to describe the ceremonies followed.
But, there was a slight twist to that ceremony.
When my sister passed away, there was a memorial service where I took the opportunity to vent to a porcelain rabbit containing the cremated remains of my sister. While I felt a bit strange taking pictures, I felt I must capture this.
The honor guard, standing ready to place the cremains and the American flag into the casket – – –
And then both are put into the casket – – –
Here’s a close up – – –
Bless the airman for not cracking a smile…or even just outright busting out in laughter. Not sure I could’ve kept it serious.
And, at the last, laid to rest in the nook where she will reside forever – –
A quick text after the ceremony to my Dear Friend: “The rabbit is in the hole.” And a hope I can find peace as well in her being laid to rest.