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IN REGARD TO MY FATHER’S PASSING
by Sharon Rondeau
(Jul. 30, 2011) — I wanted to take a moment to thank everyone for your thoughtful notes of condolence and encouragement since the announcement of my dad’s passing on Monday, July 25. I received many wonderful messages which are very special to me, including two very kind notes from Obama supporters. All of your communications in this regard have been retained permanently in my “memory box.” If I have not responded to you personally, I will do so in the near future.
This goes to show that we all can be decent human beings and treat each other with respect, regardless of our political or ideological beliefs.
The funeral was held this morning. It was an overcast, humid day with early rain and a continued threat thereof; therefore, a tent had been erected over Dad’s casket and seating at the cemetery plot. The casket had been covered with an American flag for his service in the Army Air Corps during World War II.
One of his sons-in-law, who is a Navy retiree, gave the eulogy, invoking the Navy’s frequently-used blessing, “Fair winds, following seas.” He spoke of my dad’s voluntary enlistment in the service at the end of 1942 at the age of 18, when the average age of those serving had been 26. The eulogist stated that the China/Burma/India mission was a dangerous one with only 40 years of aviation history behind it. His words reminded me that in the rare event when Dad had spoken about his time in the war, he would say to us, “There were lots of guys who were in a lot more danger than I was.”
The son-in-law described Dad as “an unforgettable man.”
After I arrived, given the circumstances, I stood apart from the rest of the family instead of sitting down under the tent. Sometimes when we stand up for something, we are alone, or we think we are alone. But I know God was with me today, because Dad is with Him now.
When it came time for others to give eulogies, one of the obsequious siblings made the comment that “Dad always taught us to take responsibility for our actions.” I found that interesting in light of the fact that in my opinion, there was no one so irresponsible, tactless, aggressive and inconsiderate than this sibling during the last seven months in an irrational effort to keep alive a dying man regardless of the human price to be paid and in direct violation of his wishes. The way in which this person interprets “responsibility” is different from how Dad would have described it. To me, responsibility means behaving in a manner which is respectful of others while communicating your point, taking into consideration all of the options and making the most rational, mature decision for the benefit of all concerned, particularly your loved one. It means thinking before saying something or taking action. It doesn’t include steamrolling over dozens of medical professionals to get what you want, which in the end, made no difference at all, because Dad and his doctor had the final word.
Each of us was given a red rose to hold during the service. At the end of the eulogies, we were all asked to put our roses on top of the casket. I walked over, being farther away than anyone else, and as I placed my rose on top, I looked straight into the eyes of those who had banished me from family medical meetings last December as well as from finishing my musical gift to Dad less than two weeks before. Not one of them could hold my gaze, and no words were spoken.
No overture toward making amends was made afterward, either, but that was what I had expected.
The military honor guard removed the flag and folded it in their time-honored tradition. Every corner, every crease had to be perfectly folded and flattened. When they were done, they handed it to my dad’s Navy son-in-law, who handed it to my mother. From a distance, she looked very old and small, but composed.
My 92-year-old uncle attended, now walking with a cane, the last remaining brother of the three and still mentally sharp as a tack. He lost his wife of many years 19 months ago and his other brother two years ago. At that time, my dad may or may not have understood that his oldest brother had passed away.
There is an organization dedicated to bringing the history of the Army Air Corps to the public through educational and veterans’ events. The Army Air Corps had been an extension of the U.S. Army during World War II and provided support to soldiers on the ground. I believe that is what my father was referring to when he said that many servicemen had been exposed to more danger than he had been.
Dad was a recipient of the Distinguished Flying Cross, the Air Medal with One Oak Leaf Cluster, and numerous other medals while serving with the U.S. Army Air Corps. He left the service as a Sergeant.
Some of the comments which have been made in response to Dad’s passing are:
“I was a freshman at xxxxx High when Ed arrived and turned a shabby musical program into the very best in New England. Later he became my next-door neighbor and showed me what a formidable poker player he was. He could always hold our attention by setting a Kleenex on fire and dropping it into his mouth. His office was our hangout and we all grew to love Ed.”
“Please accept my deepest sympathy for your loss. I was a former student of his back in the 60’s at xxxxxxx High School and he is the reason that I enjoy music of all varieties today. I thank him for that gift.”
“My deepest sympathy to you and your family in the loss of your Dad. I was a student of his in the xxxxxx School System and thought the world of his gift of music. He was always kind, patient and such a great teacher.”
According to the sibling who stood with me in defending Dad’s living will, the first school system in which he taught during the 1950s and 60s is considering establishing a scholarship fund in his name for a deserving student wishing to pursue the study of music at the college level.
The trumpeter who played “Taps” made a few mistakes and wobbled on a few of his notes, and it did not appear that he was a military musician. While Dad would have told him to practice a little more, we deeply appreciated that he took the time to be there.