Sunday, November 12, 2006

Veteran's Day

My mom and I went to see Nate yesterday. That makes it a grand total of three times that I've been there for him: the funeral, Easter and now Veteran's Day. My son is buried in the Missouri Veterans Cemetery and I wanted to see how the place looked with American flags everywhere. I hate that it's still so hard for me to go there. Why would it ever be easy to visit your child in a cemetery? Even so, I feel like a sucky mother.

They did have flags raised on the several flagpoles that line the drives, and it was very pretty, but they didn't have flags on each grave like I hoped. Maybe that's Memorial Day. I don't know. I never paid attention to these holidays until my son ended up in a veteran's cemetery. This particular one is brand new, and several rows of graves had been added since Tom and I had been there at Easter. Here, all of the gravemarkers are identical--more military uniformity. It's easy to find Nate's row, though, because his granddad is buried in the very first grave, 16 spaces down.

Tom's dad died on January 15 of this year. He was very sick, but he died very quickly and went much sooner than anyone expected. We all believed that he would be here to welcome Nate into the family and even have some time to enjoy him. After he had died, I had so much hoped that Nate's birth would bring some happiness back to the family and be a welcome diversion for all of us. That day of the funeral, standing in front of Tom's father's flag draped casket, I never imagined that we would be back there in just over two weeks, in the same freezing interment shelter but this time, a tiny white casket in its place. It was surreal to say the least.

It had been so long since I had been there, I was happy to see that grass had finally grown over Nate's grave. Time marches on and nature takes it's course no matter how I'm feeling and how much I feel as if it's standing still. New baby grass growing over my son's grave like new skin that covers a bad wound. It's not as raw anymore, but you can still see where you've been hurt.

My sister-in-law had already been there to place pretty arrangements on both graves. (Tom's mother and sisters always keep flowers on the graves, and I'm so grateful for that. They always make a little arrangement for the baby.) Mom and I arranged our flowers in the militarily uniform vase that we are required to use, and I stood back and took a couple of pictures. The marker reads-

Nathaniel Guy K.
January 31, 2006
Februrary 3, 2006
Son of
SPC Thomas K.
Our Sweet Baby Nate

I always laugh a little when I read "Sweet Baby Nate". It sounds like the name of a barbeque sauce. "Sweet Baby Nate's Lip-Smackin' Sauce". But that's what I called him when I was pregnant, because he was sweet. He was sweet and considerate and polite. He never kept me up all night and he never even had the hiccups. He just gave me wicked heartburn, but I'm sure he didn't mean to. It sucks that this is all I know about him. "Nate was a baby. He liked grape juice. The end."

We walked sixteen spaces down and carefully arranged some purple mums (in honor of the Purple Heart that he received) in another militarily uniform vase for Tom's dad. I stood up and looked over the rows and rows of identical headstones. In my direct line of sight was the grave marker of a 21-year old man that died last November. His stone read: "Rangers Lead the Way". My husband was an Army Ranger, and reading the Ranger motto on a headstone made my hair stand up. I thought about all of these men buried here. This young Ranger and all the others, these veterans--what did they see in their lifetimes? I thought about Nate, surrounded by these tough men and felt a little better. I felt a little proud. Many of these men were buried with their medals pinned to their chest, and my boy is right there--all seven pounds and eleven ounces of him--his hair combed across his forehead, his chin tucked to his chest, looking very stern. My little soldier.


Catherine said...

What a beautiful post. I'm just so sorry you have reason to write it.

BethGo said...

This is truly a moving post and such a loving tribute to your son, his grandpa and all of the tough souls out there that have given so much to our country.