It was a Catholic service with a priest, but not a mass. Nonetheless it was lovely. My cousin had elected to be cremated, and his rosary was around the base of the vase. I said a rosary before joining the receiving line, the only one at the service, as far as I could see.
During the service, poor Patty was crying alone, so I made my way up to her and kissed her, and sat behind her with my hands on her shoulders for awhile.
Rob had served in Vietnam as a Marine, and two Marines in dress uniform folded the flag and gave it to Rob's wife. That is always such a moving moment. I can't remember a funeral in our family that did not have military honors. Not even my mom's. It's something in the blood. Rob's mom, my Aunt Margie, the stalwart Catholic in a family of hostile Protestants, did not, but maybe she should have.
They played Taps, then they opened two big doors for a rifle salute outside.
I was very proud of my twin boys who were handsome, and grave and courteous to everyone. They had gone shopping the night before to make sure they had an appropriate wardrobe. They had many questions for dad. Does this go with this? Does my tie bar go here? God bless them, they were so sincere, a bit lost without a uniform. One has only been out three weeks.
The father of the righteous will greatly rejoice;
he who begets a wise son will be glad in him.
(Proverbs 23:24 RSV)
I knew that Rob worked for Boeing. (He brought me my treasured Boeing cap and mug the last time he saw him, at my mother's funeral in 2012). However, I did not know that he helped develop the AV-8B Harrier "jump jet." They even displayed a commemorative picture of it he had received. It is a fighter that can take off and land vertically. I remember seeing them on USS Wasp when I was in the JAG Corps. It's strange to think that they had Rob's fingerprints on them.
It turns out that my cousin Sarah also worked at Boeing on similar projects. She was an "assembly engineer." She would figure out how the overall design would be broken down and assembled. She also worked on Tomahawk cruise missiles that are deployed on U.S. warships and submarines, and the space shuttle.
A Funeral Family
The only cousin that wasn't present was Betty, who is in hospice in Ohio. In a short time, I met many other people whose strands intersected mine in unremembered or unknown ways, quickly to be forgotten. My mom could have schooled everyone on their relation and degrees of separation. I have reams of her genealogical material, compiled over a lifetime. It's around here, somewhere. I think.
It seems important now, but I know how it goes. I will probably never find the time for it. We will all be dead soon enough, and our few children unknown to one another. What does it matter? We are a "funeral family." It is the only time we come together.
A refrain from "That's the Way the Whole Thing Ends" by Americana singer Gillian Welch on her 2011 album, The Harrow and the Harvest, keeps playing in my head.
That's the way the cornbread crumbles,
That's the way the whole thing ends.