Of Pine Coffins and Heartaches

May 28, 2008
By
I’ve never been to a funeral before… My mother gingerly pulls a black frock over my head of dirty brown hair, all the while; tears threaten to plummet down her carefully composed face. She pulls my hair into a strict, eye-watering plait which swings like a pendulum against my back. My mother turns and purposefully strides out of the room. She hasn’t stopped moving in days. The tread-worn floor boards have been scrubbed and swept unceasingly for the past week. Every neglected pore of my Great-Aunts, small farmhouse has been purged. My mother can’t stop moving, if she does the horrible news of her second nephew’s death will catch up with her, and then, she won’t be able to start again.

A few days ago, a big man in thick-soled, lace up boots cam to the door. He had an unpleasant look on his face, as though he had just smelled sour milk. My Aunty took one look at the man through the screen door and collapsed into a heap on the floor, wailing heart-wrenchingly. A few months ago a similar man came to the door. He bore the same sour-milk look and triggered a similar response from Aunty, only now her grief seemed to be magnified by the news of her second son, Carroll’s death.

“Ashes to Ashes Dust to Dust,” The preacher drolls… His monotone voice seems out of place, here, where a river of emotion threatens to sweep me away. The American flag, that symbol of unity and freedom is pulled away from the pine coffin and folded into a small triangle. My great Aunty clutches this small token to her chest as a child might squeeze a teddy bear. We each throw a handful of dirt on top of the coffin in which lies my cousin Carroll. The clods of soil thud dully, remorsefully as they hit the wood, I walk away, thinking about my cousins. Death is such an unjust concept. People shouldn’t just die. Who will take me to the swimming hole in the summer? Who will carry me on their strong, trusty shoulders? People like Charles and Carroll shouldn’t be allowed to die.



A few days after we bury Carroll, Aunty gets a letter in the mail. It is a letter she wrote to Carroll about a month ago. There are startling red letters stamped across the front: “DECEASED.” This event sparks an intensified bout of mourning. “No one should have to bury their children, no one,” Aunty manages between choking sobs.

Charles was fighting in France. He was shot. After he died, he was awarded the Distinguished Service Cross, the second highest ranking army award for “extraordinary heroism in action against the enemy”, as they put it. He would have been real proud, I know we are. Carroll was fighting in Iwojima during an 82 day campaign for Okinawa. One of Carroll’s buddies, they told us was wounded. Carroll was helping to carry him back when he was struck by a bullet. Don’t tell, but sometimes I wonder whether there is actually a God. I mean if there is how can he just sit up there while all these horrific things happen to the people I love?
World War II, “The war to end all wars” was the deadliest human conflict in our long, bloody, history. It resulted in tens of millions of deaths world wide. Approximately 416,800 US soldiers, including Charles and Carroll perished, fighting for their country.
“Never Again” I hope that this doesn’t ever happen again. Imagine what happened to me, my family happening almost simultaneously across the country to hundreds of thousands of mothers. I can’t understand why we kill each other. It is so incomprehensible. What is it about our race that drives us to kill each other in droves? It makes me sad, all this hate.

Days pass and sorrow, that ravaging creature, recedes a bit. Everyone is left with a dull ache in their hearts that throbs a little worse every time one walks by the boys’ room. Where do we go form here? When one is sad forward becomes indistinguishable. Up, down, right left, all blurs. Sometimes, things hurt so bad that you wonder why you don’t keel over yourself. But things just don’t work like that I guess. So we push onward. Soon it will be time to plant. Aunty wonders how, with Charles and Carroll gone, the planting will get done. The frozen ground thaws and life begins anew. Anew… I carry forever the memory of my cousins in my heart. In me they live on. In me every forgotten soldier is remembered. Remember this story, thank your lucky stars that my heroic cousins, and thousands of others like them gave their lives so that you and I can live here in peace and prosperity.





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KillerButterfly said...
Nov. 11, 2010 at 7:05 pm
I liked it, a lot. Very touching :')
 
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