I took today off to attend my cousin's interment. It took three weeks because of some stupidity on the part of the cemetery management. (The same cemetery that neglected my mother's grave so egregiously.)
My relatives are buried all over this historic cemetery, and my cousin wanted his ashes to be interred with his parents. So on this cold, bright morning Joe and I walked up to the old church to attend my cousin's burial, with full miliary honors.
There was a knot of mourners in front of the church alongside the hearse. I thought it was a little odd that a hearse would bring my cousin's ashes to the cemetery; after all, ashes don't take up all that much room. But there it was, so we figured that there must be a service ahead of the burial. I asked a gentleman in front of the church door if we should go into church first. He said yes, so Joe and I went in and sat down. There was a fair crowd there already, but I didn't recognize anyone. Then I got a look at a program, which said: A Celebration of the Life of Arthur Sarkisian.
Not my cousin.
Oops. Wrong funeral! I'm really glad we spotted that before the service began; it would have been kind of embarrassing to have to get up and walk out in the middle of Mass. We left as quickly and quietly as we could and walked over to the cemetery.
Thank goodness! There they were -- my cousin's family, my sisters and brother and their respective spouses, a few of my cousin's old friends. The bugler was standing among the memorial markers a little ways off; two other soldiers were standing at attention, flanking the urn.
The brief service began with the playing of Taps, then the ritual folding of the flag. When the soldier knelt in front of my cousin's widow and presented the flag to her with the thanks of a grateful nation, I couldn't help but tear up.
It's a solemn, beautiful way to leave this earth.
Afterward, we joined everyone at a nearby French restaurant for a luncheon in honor of my cousin. It was delicious.