On Veterans Day I took Ranger to the local park, a scrub brush and sponge in hand to clean the small granite marker under the flagpole at the forgotten rear of the park. We’d replaced the tattered flag again recently and I enjoyed its flapping above me as I gave the stone a quick wash. It just seemed…an appropriate thing to do, really.
Trooper and I watched a Nat’l Geo program on Arlington the other day, each of us sniffing a bit here and there as the Old Guard did their job. We were glad to have watched it before watching the HBO program, Section 60: Arlington National Cemetery.
In the former program, one was able to see how the groundskeepers and everyone associated with the site had such tremendous respect for what they were doing, for the people there, living and dead. The HBO program made them seem callous or at least oblivious. What they do is a very delicate balance of getting work done around mourners.
Most of the family members interviewed seemed to be freshly grieving which, I believe, brought out emotions and words that were…harsh with proximity. But the one thing that stuck with me – that made me just weep – was the mother who said all she wanted was to, “…hear him say he forgives me for not being there with him when he died.”
How evocative was that simple sentence? It said in a few words what poets have striven to embody for ages.
I have a particular reverence for the place. I know no one there. I’ve never been. But it has a deep connection for some reason. All the men and women buried there are familiar with the endings each other experienced. I imagine them conversing, comforting the newly arrived. I wish Trooper would think more seriously about going there. I think about how much I’d like to be there, someday, if room could be made near him.
And then, later, I thought about it in the future, forgotten and overrun with wilderness. The buildings no longer pristine, the marble barely visible through vines. Could that day ever dawn? Will I live long enough to see it?
I have to hope that there will always be someone there, caring for the place. That the Old Guard ensures its ranks never falter. Just keep it…sacred.