The Day We Said Goodbye

March 31, 2009
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I woke up early that June morning
The sun already beating down
Showing signs of yet another scorcher
It seemed to be an ordinary summer day
However, it was quite the contrary

It was the day of Andrew’s funeral
Andrew, a Marine and hero of sorts
One who fought for his country
And died for his country
The day would be marked with sadness
Yet appreciation would fill the hearts of many

The high school parking lot is filled
Hundreds have made the journey
Bikers, each holding an American flag, line the sidewalk
Each step seems to get harder and harder to take
Upon entering, the atmosphere is implacable

Countless are already seated
Staring in silence toward the front of the gymnasium
Andrews closed casket is there, a flag draped over it
Seated in front are Andrew’s family and closest friends
The harshness of reality manifests in their faces
A row of Marines sits attentively to the side

The ceremony begins with music
Instantly the tears come
Tears that nobody bothers to wipe away
The pastor speaks about putting our trust in God
How we may not know why he took Andrew so early
But he had a reason for our heartache

Several others make their way to the podium
Family members of Andrew’s, his fiancé
Even his superiors from training have come
They all talk of Andrew in the highest degree
Telling stories from his youth, and the times they shared
They speak about Andrew’s sense of humor
His pride, passions, love for his family and friends
But most of all, his love for his country



This part of the funeral has concluded
Those Andrew knew the best carry his casket out
The rest of us slowly and quietly file out
His casket is placed in the hearse
Attendees make their way to their cars to join the procession
It is over a hundred cars long and seems to stretch forever

The procession makes it way through towns
Streets are lined with thousands of people
Most of who did not know Andrew
But still feel indebted to him
Factories and business are briefly shut down
Business and homemade signs stand numerous

The cemetery is filled to capacity
Vehicles line not only the driveways but the roads as well
The casket is placed in the shade under the tiny tent
Mourners gather around to be as close as possible
Nobody pays any attention to how hot it is

Once again the pastor talks of Andrew
Attempting to bring close to all
He shares Christmas stories of Andrew and his father’s hat games
It somehow lightens the mood if only for a few seconds

In the background, a bugle begins to sound
A Marine stands tall while playing the Taps
That is the hardest moment of the day
It seems to prove that a life has indeed been lost
Shots ring out, the 21 Gun Salute
Each shot pierces our hearts, like it is shooting us instead
Marines begin to fold the flag draping the casket
They make it seem like an art form, each fold is exact
Each of Andrew’s parents is presented with a folded flag

After a few more words, the ceremony ends
Yet many do not leave right away
Instead, arms are outstretched and wrapped around one another
People line up to give their condolences one last time to the family
When people do leave, it is with heavy hearts
It somehow feels wrong to leave such a young man in a place like that
To leave his family and friends there
Even after the whole day, it is as if reality has yet to set in

That was the day a community said goodbye to a hero
Andrew, a son, friend, fiancé
A hero fighting for what he believed in
But one we never really had a chance to say goodbye to





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