Tuesday, May 08, 2007

21 Gun Salute

A little over a week ago, my grandfather, Elmer Roach, died from complications of old age. His wife Doris, my grandmother, had preceded him by just four months. They were a grand old couple, not in the grand living sense, but in the grand loving sense. If ever I've seen the example of two becoming one, they were it. I wrote this poem for them, tucked it in a drawer some ten or so years ago. I dug it out after he died, reread it and found that I was right. Grandpa greatest trial was the living without her for those few short months. Here's the poem:

The Grandparents

It’s been a long journey
quiet mostly, with
ups and downs that
mark all human life
Neither really shone without
the other’s mirrored face
they plodded steadily on
faithful to the other

When he looks at her
he doesn’t see the lines
that mark the pass of time
or the faded blue in her eyes
He doesn’t see the bride
either, long lost in photographs
but somewhere in the middle
a woman he knows so well
every sigh and creak
has its own special place inside his heart

When she sees him
she can’t help but still admire
his tall straight back - so proud
bending just for her
His voice still strong and loud
droning with the stories of yesteryear
her harmony part is pursed lips and rolled eyes
but she knows a secret comfort

They look into eternity, stalking them
now, a place of peace
except for the knowledge that one will go before
one will walk alone – for a little while, and
how to be alive with only the
half of yourself to see
and hear and touch is unimaginable
It will be their greatest test

I wonder when I see them
at their courage, they must have known
what such loving would cost
But they did it anyway

Such quiet lives, so full
of gentle grace that I hope
the years have bought them strength
to finally face the day alone with a measure
of everlasting peace.

She died first. He was the one who lived alone for a time. But then, we knew as God must have known, that he was the one strong enough for that trial. My grandpa died much as he lived, thinking of her, dreaming of when he'd see her face again, leaning on Christ his Savior till his very last breath.

His funeral was a military funeral, reminding us of all of the stories he told as a Navy ship's cobbler during WWII. Eight elderly, uniformed American Legion officers marched onto the grassy space near his grave. One played "Taps" from an old trumpet, the remaining seven stood facing each other in formation, rifles braced on bony shoulders, faces filled with patriotic pride. Raise . . . fire . . . raise . . . fire . . . raise . . . fire. We stood transfixed by the pagentry, so fitting and so right for the noble life he'd led. Then the flag, our American flag that he was proud of, that he was willing to die for, that he paid attention to in the reading he did, in the opinions he had about where this country was going, it was folded in the tri-cornered shape of the hats our patriots wore so long ago, the field of blue with fifty stars on the top. That flag was presented to my dad, another veteran, though of a different war in a far different time and place that was America in the 60's, and then a blessing was pronounced on our family. It was a legacy being passed down and we all felt it and knew in that moment that this was his gift to us.

Grandpa's life had been laid down in every way . . . and now the blessing of that was being bled and spoken into the next generations to come.





3 comments:

Tamera Svanes said...

Beautiful poem and beautiful sentiment. I could imagine the funeral from your description. A life well lived is never forgotten.

pelicanl said...

Hello,
I ran across your blog simple by hitting 'next blog'. Thank you for such a beautiful tribute/poem of your grandparents. I keep going back and reading it.

Marcia said...

Jamie,
Your poem for your Grandparents is beautiful! What a wonderful tribute to them.