Sunday, June 4, 2017


In most things there is a "before", there is a "during", and there is an "after."
To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven...*
I remember the day my father died. Before I was called to come home, I was in church. Then the call came and I got in my car to make the long drive north.

During the drive my mind went back to the many things we had done together, the laughter, the lessons taught, the good times we had had.

It was a long drive, in the dark of a winter's night, a full moon shone upon the snow, I was alone. My wife waited at home, as I wished it. I wanted the time to prepare for what was to come. I wanted, no, needed to be alone.

When I arrived, one of my brothers met me in the parking lot outside of the hospital. It was time, he said. The doctors held out no hope, none at all.

We went up to my father's bedside, where my mother, my brother's wife, and my youngest brother also waited.

When my father was removed from life support, it was only a few short moments before he passed into eternity.

That was the "during."

Afterwards, I called the Red Cross to pass the word to my middle daughter, then at sea, that her grandfather had passed. I knew she would not be able to come home for the funeral. But I had already heard from my oldest child, my son, and my youngest daughter that they would be coming East.

While my father was in the "after," so to speak, the rest of us were still in the "during."

I traveled back to Rhode Island. My youngest, pregnant with my first granddaughter, her husband also then at sea, flew in and my wife, my youngest and I traveled back up to Vermont. My son flew in with his wife and son soon thereafter.

The funeral was held on a bright, sunny day. The sun was shining, the snow lay thick upon the ground, but I cannot remember whether it was cold or not. It must have been, but I have no memory of that.

My brothers and I, my son, my nephew, and one of my father's friends carried him to his final rest.

There were prayers, there was a bugler.

An old friend of mine from school was there, he had retired from the Army as a major. As Taps sounded on the crisp winter air, he and I both raised our hands in salute. When the first volley rang out over my father's coffin, I did not start, I did not jump, I had heard it all before. Besides which, my mind was far away, thinking back, knowing that the box before me did not hold my father. Only his earthly remains.

When it was done, my friend had collected some of the spent brass from the volleys fired over my father's grave. I have them to this day on my shelf, along with many other treasured mementos. I hope to have that spent brass in my pocket when I go to my own rest. It's a thought anyway.

We went to the wake, we ate, we drank, we remembered. All too soon, we all went our separate ways. As we drove south, a thought struck me.

Now it was "after," my mother was now alone in the home she had made with my father. For those of us heading back home, our daily routines would be mostly unchanged.

But for my mother, things had changed forever. She had to face the "after" and somehow carry on.

So now when I hear of the death of a friend or acquaintance, I pray for their souls and I mourn. But I also try to pay heed to the ones left behind.

For whom everything will never be the same again.

In the after...

* Ecclesiastes 3:1 (KJV)


  1. The scars left from the loss of a loved one take a very long time to heal, and like the scars of a physical wound they never vanish completely.

    My wife and I were doing a quick job yesterday and I grabbed a 7/16" open end wrench at random from the wrench drawer. The open end was very loose on the fastener and I realized that the wrench was worn out, I idly turned the wrench over and saw that it had my father's name engraved on it with an electric buzzer and the engraving was in my father's handwriting. I turned to my wife and said, "This is worn out and needs to be thrown away, but it was my father's and I just can't throw it away." She smiled the smile of understanding and said, "Keep it."

    He died in '82.

    Way too much pollen as I write this.

    Another great post.

    1. Thanks John.

      The post started with one thought and just took off on a tangent. That happens sometimes. I do believe it's because my Dad's birthday is June 6th, not that far off. He would have been 89.

      Sometimes the memories flood in and overwhelm me.

  2. Superb, thought provoking post Sarge. That final parting is the one thing we all share.

  3. WOW! A very moving post. It's lucky that I know touch typing, the dust is thick in my office. Thank you for the post.

    Paul L. Quandt

  4. My father passed in 1965 from untreated and undiagnosed chronic sleep apnea. While I miss him my biggest regret is my younger sons never got to spend much time with him. On a positive note, the shock of his untimely passing lead to many family members getting themselves checked for sleep apena. There are a lot of us now using CPAPs.

  5. Thank for sharing Sarge. Gave me pause to reflect....

  6. To every thing there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven...* This was the passage that my father, not an especially religious man, had requested for his funeral service. When I hear or read it, I do get misty.

    Lovely post.

  7. temporary loss for words. I was just thinking and remembering....

    1. Understood, I get that way from time to time.

  8. Badger Paw Salute, to you and your Mom.


  10. Well written and timely for Jeanie and I. We received this AM a text informing us of the pointless death of a good friend. Hit by a car with a sleeping driver. Oh so sad. The video helps to understand but to never understand.

    1. My prayers go out to you and to all the others left behind.

      Sometimes the world seems cruel beyond reason.


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