I pledge allegiance to the Flag, of the United States of America… What a bunch of crap! You worthless stars and wrinkled stripes—I hate you--I’ll never pledge anything to you—ever! Do you hear me? Never-never-nev… Down went Ben’s head trying to swallow the sobs, remembering those words from just one week ago. Now he was certain that he would never speak that pledge again. This had been eating on him like sour milk, churning inside for days as he stared at the flag draped casket.
Oh God—yeah, God, where were you? All those prayers—what good did they do? You were supposed to protect him. Wasn’t that our deal? You bring him home in one piece—safe, and then I follow the family tradition.
Coming from six-generations of military men, he was destined to make it seven. Well forget it…no deal, you’re as dead to me as he is.
His sobs were in sync with his tears, as each tear danced off the tips of his new black shoes. Fourteen and fatherless, who’s gonna teach me to drive? You were supposed to be here when I graduate. Why did you have to volunteer? You knew it would be dangerous--what were you thinkin’? It sure wasn’t about us…I could hate you, if I didn’t love you so much. Oh—Dad what are we gonna do without you?
The Minister stood. All that black makes him look like a talkin’ stove pipe. Aunt Sarah begins to sing—Amazing grace how sweet the sound that saved a wretch like me…. How can you sing with such tenderness? He was your own brother. The only sweet sound I need to hear is from a voice that will never again call my name.
“Your father was a Hero Ben. You can be proud to be called his son. I will always be proud to call him my son until the day I die.” Said Grandpa quickly wiping the tears from his cheek.
It should be me lying there, fathers are not supposed to outlive their sons. Words he dare not speak aloud.
As he placed his arm around my shoulder and his large hand patted my chest, I wondered if he could feel my heart pounding like a hammer on an anvil. Poor Grandpa, he’s hurting too…he still has me though. Grandpa says that I’m young and in time I will get over the hurt and anger. I hope he’s right. But for now I just want to beat the heck out of something.
I'm numb and ashamed. Mom…I’m surprised by your strength. Sitting straight and tall like a solid oak tree, Steady and proud just like he’d want you to be. I should be…I just can’t.
Finally! The Minister says Amen. Then the strangest thing happened.
A small yellow bird landed on top of Dad’s casket, plucked a petal from the very rose that I had placed on it, and flew off with the petal clasped tightly in it’s tiny beak. Grandpa leaned in close and whispered, “Perhaps this is God’s way of giving you a sign that your dad, like that rose petal is longer here, but soaring higher to a better place.”
Oh grandpa I want so much to believe those words. I’ve got to admit, it is strange. Well God if this is a sign from You, Thanks—but I’m still angry with you. Dad—I’m gonna’ miss you. I promise to take good care of Mom and Grandpa. Every time I see a yellow bird I’ll be reminded of where you are.
Ben slowly stood and raised his right hand to his forehead. Not really wanting to salute, he did, knowing that six-generations of Thomas Men were watching. "I love you Dad and I’ll always be proud to be your son."
Grief is such a difficult subject to write about. But you did an excellent job. The piece was full of the various emotions a person will go through at the funeral of a close relative. I like how, even though Ben still struggles with his grief you give him a glimmer of hope with the yellow bird.
This is a very good piece.