Nothing Up My Sleeve

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 – – –

The flag in the front row and the back row has...

And then both are put into the casket – – –

Watch me pull a rabbit out of my casket, Rocky!

Here’s a close up – – –

Close up of the transfer

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 – –

Maybe we should've put some carrots in there to tide her over for eternity?

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.


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12 Responses to “Nothing Up My Sleeve”

  1. kyknoord Says:

    That is beautiful, heart-rending and hilarious in equal parts. Let us spare a thought for the poor alien archaeologist who rediscovers your sister a million years from now.

  2. Mitzi G Burger Says:

    Such a lovely story, both moving and sweet and worth a giggle or two. Thanks for sharing it, and the pictures are great.

  3. daisyfae Says:

    Silly rabbit! Tricks are for kids!

    wonderful story! makes me really like your brother-in-law and niece!

  4. Stephanie of Stopbouncing Says:

    Bunny looks a bit apprehensive…

    Military funerals are so heart-wrenching… and then there are bunnies.

  5. Lynn Says:

    this was a beautiful tribute post. my dad is buried in arlington nat’l cemetery too and these pics brought back memories of my childhood as i saw this same service when i was eleven. ~supposedly using the same horse drawn carriage to transport his casket as carried President Lincoln. seems they are still using it.

  6. Dennis the Vizsla Says:

    I find the idea of combining death and bunnies oddly comforting.

  7. Kym Says:

    Unlike the airman, I cracked a smile (or two.) But I also feel the world is a sweeter more innocent place. Thanks.

  8. nursemyra Says:

    I love this post

  9. hisqueen Says:

    I’m guessing her “Rabbit” Tome was the talk of the night. I’m glad for you that she is in her final resting place at Arlington.

  10. thegnukid Says:

    kyknoord – the rabbit will be staring at the guy with beady little eyes. i’d like to be there for that.

    mitzi – all part of the process of letting go…and still seeing the humor in it.

    daisyfae – the weird part is that i don’t think they did it for the humor value. i really think they wanted to find something that would have meaning to my sister. [sigh] oh, well, it’s still a hoot.

    stephanie – bunny SHOULD look apprehensive. that’s a rabbit hole he’s not likely to escape from. still think i should’ve snuck in a carrot or two to tide him over.

    lynn – i admit to being a bit shocked, pleasantly so, that they used a formal horse drawn caisson. and who knows who else was on there in the past.

    dennis – but now the bar is raised for me. what, oh what, shall i use at my funeral?

    kym – you’re allowed to smile. i still smile when i see the pictures.

    nursemyra – aw, shucks [blush]…thanks

    hisqueen – didn’t talk to friends of the family. and family sort of took it all in stride and didn’t mention it much. guess that’s just my family.

  11. Dolce Says:

    Wow. What a tale. A fluffy one, with whiskers maybe.

    How was Africa Gnu?

  12. thegnukid Says:

    dolce – porcelain whiskers, maybe. See next post for my ZA trip…well, part 1 of a few.

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