November 30, 2009

365 Project: Day 38

Today was my grandfather's funeral. My family asked me to get the the funeral home early to photograph the whole setup of flowers and pictures that they had displayed around his coffin. I did. I paid careful attention not to photograph his body.

The plan was always to bury him in his military uniform. But he made a last minute change before he passed. He decided to be buried in a black suit, clean white shirt, and a tie with a pearl pin. The family didn't know this, but when the mortician received his suit, there was a note from my grandfather in the pocket. He wanted to wear a pair of white cloth gloves. He had made sure that he took care of everything, even after he passed.

My grandfather had a military funeral. He served in WWII when he was only 15 years old. His time in the military was a big part of his life and who he was. My grandfather's family has a family cemetery in Mt. Sylvan, TX where he grew up. The actual burial was a 3 hour drive from the funeral and the men from the VFW couldn't travel that far to perform the gun salute graveside. So we improvised.

When the preacher was finished speaking, three elderly men in military uniform stood up from the pews. They walked to the front and stood next to my grandfather's coffin. One man with snow white hair and a mustache that curled on the ends, spoke about my grandfather and his service to our country. That's when I lost it. I was sobbing and shaking and trying to stay composed. After he spoke, the three men put a folded American flag into a glass case. They turned to my family, saluted us, and each whispered a few words to my grandmother as they presented her with the flag.

I can't imagine how she must have felt. After 63 years of marriage, she was left with a flag.

That's when they opened the doors of the building to reveal men in uniform standing outside at attention. Each of the three men who presented the flag approached my grandfather's casket, faced him, and one by one, they each saluted him. Taps began to play and tears were streaming down my face. Its hard to explain what I was feeling because it wasn't all sadness. I was proud. I am so unbelievably proud of him and the life he lived. It is truly an honor to be his granddaughter.

Then the guns were fired in honor of him.

The building I am standing in front of in this picture is not the funeral home. This is the Mt. Sylvan Community Center. It is across the street from the cemetery and is a huge part of the Norris family history. Up until just recently, we have had our family reunion in this building on the 4th of July for I don't even know how many years. Long before my grandparents even met. The past few years they moved it to a larger location because we can't all fit in this little building anymore. I spent every 4th of July here as a child. But that is not the only reason it is significant to me. The Norris family reunion was something that my grandfather looked forward to every single year. He was so proud of our family and loved us all so much. And we all felt the same about him. He is our hero.

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