Today is a beautiful day.
It’s cold and overcast, with a wind that is not actually hostile, although doesn’t seem to like any of us very much. But in my aimless pre-dawn wandering, I crested an overpass on the way to Manassas and was struck by a flare of gaudy salmon pink lancing the cloud cover somewhere over the Atlantic, flooding inland and suffusing a million miles of sky with a fiery underlight. By the time I found a place to take a picture, the world had turned, the glow was gone, and an unknown night had become a tentative day.
I had spent the day before with friends and coworkers at Arlington to pay respects. We took some natural fiber sponges and bottled water to do any upkeep that might be possible. We stood about a couple of the stones, sharing stories by way of introduction and lapsing into completely comfortable silence from time to time.
We met a nice lady, Mrs. Davis, who volunteered to take a picture of us. She had a chair and a thermos and was settled in for the long haul, spending the day with her son, her only child. We cleaned his stone as well, and asked her to tell us about him, and she did. She has nearly ten years invested in a community of similarly-situated moms who spend their days at the cemetery.
When my friend was killed, those of us in country joined a conference call with the wings of his family, and we were just staggered at how his family was so concerned for us. Similarly, the mother of one of the folks we visited (whom I did not directly know) asked military folks to stand for a moment at her own son’s memorial service and gave them a firm bucking. I cannot understand how people find the strength and grace to conduct themselves so richly, so beautifully, at such awful times.
Soon I will return to my own family, and I do so with a humility and gratitude for those who did not have such an opportunity — for both the fallen and for those who must carry on, never finishing, never resting, until some day they may be reunited with those whom they love.
It looks like the sun may come out. If so, I will consider it a blessing. And if it should rain, I will consider that a blessing as well.