Saturday, December 3, 2011

A Grateful Nation

This has been a very hard week for my family. A week ago today my grandfather, Harold Davis, went into the hospital suffering from pneumonia. Forty-eight hours later, he was gone. I visited him Sunday night and could tell from his short breath and overwhelming fatigue that the outlook was grim. It seemed as though his will to live had gone. Monday night my mother called me to let me know that he was in the ICU and being removed from life support. I immediately went to the hospital to be with her and arrived just moments after he died. With the curtain respectfully drawn in his room for privacy for our family as we grieved, I was so immediately confronted with the ugliness of death. It is not the way things were meant to be. Everything in me cries out against the curse we live under, that every moment leads us inexorably closer to our last. It is unnatural, undignified, and harsh. As we all cried and held one another, I saw a message written by the ICU nurse on the room's white board: "Those who walk with Jesus are never alone." What comfort for us to know that the anxiety and physical decline that had defined my grandfather's later years were past him, and that now he was with his Savior in glory, body whole, spirit free.

This photo was originally posted by me on January 15, 2009 in a blog about my late grandmother, entitled Alma Newton Davis. My grandfather's name and birth date were already etched on the headstone at that time.
My grandfather was born in 1922. He died at the happy age of 89 leaving behind 3 children, 7 grandchildren, and 5 great grandchildren. He was an amazing man, never afraid to learn new things, one of the most computer literate people I have ever met, interested in history and politics, art and nature. One of the things I am most proud of him for is the time he spent in the Army during World War II. He was a medic and was part of the US military presence that liberated the concentration camp at Dachau. I visited Dachau in 1999 and the devastation and ghastliness of the place is something I will carry with me forever. I can only imagine what he saw and felt in those dark days.

We were able to locate his military discharge papers and arrange an honor guard at his graveside for the burial. It was an incredibly moving experience. Three members of the Army met us at the cemetery, saluting my grandfather's flag-draped coffin as it was carried from the hearse to the grave site. One of them stood a few yards off and played the mournful strains of taps. The two remaining officers then removed the flag from the coffin, folded it, saluted it, and presented it to my mother saying these words: "This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service."

A grateful nation. I could scarcely draw breath at those beautiful words. I was and am so proud.

6 comments:

Lore/Lola/Dolo/Many names said...

I am so sorry for your family's loss and applaud at the way you rejoice in your grandfather's life. My grandfather died 20 years ago and I still miss him dearly. He was a WWII vet as well and when I teach mid-20th century history, I feel he is there with me.

God bless.

sarifletch said...

Beautiful words, Beck. I too was very moved by the honor guard and the tender kindness of the officer as he saluted the flag, removed his glove, and shook mom's hand.

Lise said...

Becky, thanks for sharing this loving and heartfelt tribute to your grandfather. It's a remarkable story.

Lexie Loo, Lily Boo, and Dylan Too! said...

Oh, Becky, I'm so sorry for your loss.

The Green Family said...

Wow, Becky. I am so sorry for your loss. What a beautiful tribute to a great man. Thanks for sharing a little bit about his life with us.

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Beck.

Love,

Mom