“Fading light dims the sight,
And a star gems the sky, gleaming bright.
From afar drawing nigh — Falls the night.
Day is done, gone the sun,
From the lake, from the hills, from the sky;
All is well, safely rest, God is nigh.
Then good night, peaceful night,
Till the light of the dawn shineth bright;
God is near, do not fear — Friend, good night.”
unofficial verse for Taps
Last week, despite my own trepidations and fear of being overwhelmed by my still very present 6 year old grief at the loss of my mother, I went to a funeral. I remembered that the greatest gift that my friends gave to me in my time of need was their presence so I ventured out to support my dear friend whose father, a veteran, was rendered Military Funeral Honors as he was laid to rest. Knowing everything happens for a reason, while I never met this man in person, even the connection in those final moments in remembrance after he left the physical world has left this message for me as I move forward: let your legacy be a life of service, love and joy.
An honor guard detail of two from the Armed Forces in full dress draped the American flag over the casket, the celebrant blessed it and made his final remarks sealing his beautiful life story on this Earth. As the priest spoke, I was watched his daughter, recalling her telling me that he was JOY, his enthusiasm over his short 95 years of life did not go unnoticed and passed on to her and it was obvious as the pain was heart felt, this man was loved and loved. I saw her holding tight to her own mother as the quiet moments that followed unfolded.
The family members stepped aside leaving a path directly to where Serafin waited to receive his final accolade for a life well lived. The honor guard lined up one in front of the other, the detail marched slowly towards the casket as a December breeze passed over us. Stopping with great respect, both carefully folded the American flag corner by corner in a ceremonious gesture as to honor his great contribution to this country. When finished, one of the two knelt in front of my friend’s mother, stating in Spanish that the American flag was presented in gratitude for his service on behalf of the President of the United States and this country. Then, all you heard was the emotive and powerful sound of Taps being played by a bugler. The finality of the moment was marked by the singularly beautiful,mournful and appropriate music of this call, full of rest and peace. White roses were then handed out to the family members to be placed on the end of the casket as the pall bearers lifted him gently into the mausoleum that would be his body’s new home.
However, I felt a freedom there, his spirit flying high all around me and I could not help but think my mother was present too urging me on, to carry the American dream with me and not to waste a single moment of opportunity to be a part of what makes a positive difference in this world. I thought about how I left my own career as a public servant this past summer, something that I held dearly as one of the highest honors and privileges I could have had to serve my country in whatever capacity I could. And I actually mourned for the first time leaving one dream for another, leaving behind my relationships and a career I held so very dear not knowing what would come next.
I hugged my friend, handed her my bracelet inscribed with the words “she knew she could and she did”, told her I loved her, retreated to my car where I was safe to just cry and cry and cry! Release is what I felt, loss is what I felt, and a deep love is what I felt for all of what I have experienced as it is now a part of, forever written on my journey.
I returned to my own home and retreated into my closet, the place where I spent many days not knowing how I would survive without my mom, the woman who always told me how proud she was of me. This time instead of falling on the floor in tears, I looked on my wall over the desk where I wrote my way out of grief. There she was, a framed seal of the Department of the Homeland Security surrounded by signature of all my friends, all the life stories that I impacted and who have impacted me. And I recalled that American flag and Serafin and somehow, my need for approval fell away replaced by the message: let your legacy be one of service, love and joy. So in gratitude, I felt it was to to welcome my new life and experiences to see where they takes me, something that I had not been able to do up until that point. And somehow, there is a hope- a knowing that when Taps is played at the ends of my days, I will rest in peace with no regrets, just like my mom and Serafin and all others who have gone before, knowing that I will have done my best to bring my talents into this world to make a magical difference, letting my candle burn bright, the passion that is my fire urge me on, as I rise to the top of my very own spiral staircase.
So Serafin, know “Day is done, gone the sun, your star gems the sky, gleaming bright…God is near, do not fear — Friend, good night.” Thank you for the peace you have given me this day.