Saturday, October 14, 2006

We were continuing to receive phone calls from near and far as the word spread. Once our friends had expressed their sorrow about Thomas and asked how we were doing, they often moved on to news of their own families, especially if we had not been in recent contact. Some of it was a bit hard to process under the circumstances and I've forgotten most of it now. It was a kind of verbal way to hold our hands though, and I was grateful for the time we got to spend with old friends. We also received e-mails--the internet certainly made getting the word out much, much easier. In an abstract sort of way, it was interesting to see who knew whom, and in which directions the news traveled. But one of these paths was truly remarkable. On Sunday, a friend of my husband's, living in California, had asked for prayers in his Lutheran church for the Doerflinger family and in that way he learned that his church organist had played at our wedding in 1977. The organist in turn contacted a friend in Indiana we had lost touch with seven or eight years earlier. The Indiana friend called and e-mailed that he would be coming to the funeral. It is impossible to say what that meant to us.

Other people also took care of us. I've been active in the PTA's of my kids' schools since the oldest was in kindergarten and had spent 11 years in elementary, middle school and high school PTA's in Montgomery County (I was at that moment the president of the middle school PTA), with some overlap from church, and those people visited, brought us food on a schedule they arranged, announced they would take care of the reception after the funeral, cleaned my house and planted my daffodil bulbs. They brought us books on grieving which we skimmed and read for weeks, trying to figure out when it was going to stop feeling quite this bad. Cards and notes started arriving in numbers that made the mailman come to the door instead of using the box. Fortunately, neighbors had also started offering to put up our friends and relatives who were coming to town for the funeral. Realizing that we would never be able to put everyone up within walking distance, I also reserved a block of rooms at the local Marriott Courtyard. Bless them, they gave us a reduced rate, and apparently managed to accomodate everyone, even though I am pretty sure that I had not asked them to set aside enough rooms.

And also somewhere in here, we were told by CPT J.M. that Thomas would receive posthumously the Purple Heart, the Bronze Star, and a Good Conduct Medal. We were very dignified until she told us about the Good Conduct Medal--it may have been the first moment that we all actually laughed. Thomas was a quiet rebel, a bit of an anarchist at heart, and the thought that his behavior had been so exemplary that he received a medal for it was just too much for us. I know in my heart of hearts that he deserved it, but he had always been so dismissive of his own performance in the Army that we were totally taken aback when he received a medal for good conduct.

On Tuesday, Thomas's body was brought to our local funeral home from Dover AFB. We brought a suit of clothes, donated by Debbie's husband because Thomas had outgrown his only suit while he was in the Army. Thomas had asked that we not bury him in uniform and we honored that. He had told us that summer that he had left instructions for burial in a private cemetery and that he wanted to be buried in civilian clothes because he had only signed a five year contract with the Army; eternity belonged to him. People are always astonished that we had actually discussed these things, and so am I sometimes, but I am so glad we did.


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