Wednesday, August 09, 2006

I don't remember much of the Saturday after Thomas died. I know that I went to Mass, we went to the bank, then we must have come home--again I think a lot of people came, but fewer than on Friday. We continued to receive many phone calls, including one from the Traffic Division of the Montgomery County Police Department, offering their services for the funeral. (Maria had worked as an intern for the MCPD during her senior year of high school.) Our doctor's office called. People kept bringing food. We went to the bank. I think in the evening that a couple whose son-in-law had been killed in Iraq a few months earlier came over at the request of our neighbors. They did have some things to say that were helpful, but I really cannot remember any of the conversation except that they were kind and that our friend Barbara was in the livingroom holding her baby daughter.

Sunday morning, we went to our usual Mass which is held in the school gymnasium. This is one that Thomas had attended from fourth grade until he left for the Army so many people knew him. All of us, Anna, Maria, Matthew, my husband Richard and his brother Eugene (who is wheelchair-bound) and I went. I had a tote bag with a box of tissues. A lot of people already knew about Thomas--the singing group had clearly changed their musical choices after they put the numbers up on the board to songs that were more appropriate--but many more did not. Msgr Jordan came over to tell us that he would announce it before the Eucharistic prayer. When he did, you could hear a gasp that sounded as if everyone there had been punched in the stomach. And a lot of weeping. In many ways, it was the most difficult moment of that week. It was our first venture into public as a family who had lost a child in combat and it was, to me anyway, unexpectedly powerful. Maybe it was the first moment that I realized that a large community had also lost Thomas.

Many, many people came up to us afterwards. We were still waiting for Thomas's body to come back to the States so we couldn't give them any information on the funeral or wake. I kept handing out tissues and getting hugged until finally it was over and we could go home.

That afternoon, a few more people came to see us, a little more formal than the crowds of folks who had been there earlier, except that a group of women were cleaning my house in the middle of this. They merrily vacuumed and made beds and cleaned the bathrooms while we sat downstairs, talking to friends and business associates of my husband's. These ladies I knew from church and PTA and all I could think was that now they knew what a lousy housekeeper I really am.

My sister and her husband were flying in that evening and we arranged for our friend Steve (married to Barbara) to pick them up. There were still a lot of people around, and I am reasonably certain that Steve and Barbara had just decided to make sure that there was always someone around that week. I found it incredibly comforting to have all these friends and then family with us. I was very glad to see Cece, my sister, and Mike.

Sometime during the day, our CAO called to let us know that Thomas's body had arrived around noon at Dover Air Force Base. We had elected to not go which in the event was a good thing because originally he was scheduled to arrive late in the afternoon. But that had been a very costly week in terms of casualties--maybe they had to work more efficiently. I just remember seeing George Stephanopoulos's In Memoriam segment before we left for church that morning: 58 deaths, 55 names had been released. Thomas was there.


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