The American flag had high visibility at Uncle Howard’s funeral in Memphis. The day began for us as we drove by the public school where he was involved with the students and teachers. For years he timed his daily walk to coincide with the arrival of the walkers whom he greeted by name. He gave his eyewitness account of the bombing of Pearl Harbor over 300 times to school groups in the area.
The first thing I noticed as we approached the church was the array flags. You could have covered a battleship with them! Not only were flags at the front, but they also lined the side walkway. At the back, where most people entered, the flags had human attachments! Patriot Guard Riders stood there holding large flags from noon until 3:00. These bikers escorted us to the Memorial Gardens and again stood holding flags as the coffin was carried in for the ceremony.
I took a photo of the inside of the church before the crowd came. Almost every picture has a companion thought of “I wish I had taken…” The sanctuary was almost half full, but because I was treated as family, I couldn’t get that shot. A hint to the number of people expected was their having two or three guest books for attendees to sign. Howard was dressed in his uniform, as requested, and the casket was closed before the service began.
Although Howard was not blood kin of Freddy’s three children, he was their paternal grandfather in every other sense of the word. These young people are interesting, poised, and articulate. I wish you could have seen how they mingled with guests, talking with them easily, making introductions, and helping the infirm, of whom there were many. If our country were made up of young people like these, we old geezers would have no worries about the future of the US.
We didn’t expect to see anyone we knew, but our classmate Jan came through the door. There ensued a mini college reunion. Jan had played her violin for our wedding 51 years ago, but more to the point, she had visited Howard every couple of weeks for the last few years. Howard made a point of knowing every Snowdon person who passed the corner of the school, and Jan was the guidance counselor there. Somehow Howard made the connection that we knew Jan, and he invited her to meet us in his apartment in 2004.
Inanimate (in-anne-imate) objects speak to me, how I don’t know. There were roses lined up on a table in the church entrance, and they wanted me to take their picture. In due course, the roses rode the lapels of the pallbearers and were left atop the coffin. They marked Howard’s journey from the church where he spent half his life to his final resting place.