Monday, November 06, 2006

The new shoes seem to be working out all right. My friend Debbie swears that running saved my life after Thomas died (I had already suvived a life-threatening illness earlier in the year because I was in such good shape for my age). My heart was broken, but not destroyed by his loss.

And finally we arrive at the Thursday morning, one week after Thomas was killed. The funeral home had gotten his body some time on Tuesday but our director Eric had Wednesday off (I could hardly blame him for wanting time to decompress from what must be a very difficult job) so it was Thursday before we saw the body. We asked our friends Pat and Harry to drive us to the funeral home, while we sent my relatives off to tour a bit of Washington DC with our neighbor. The rest of the day was going to be hard for all of us and I was happy to think they were getting a chance to take a deep breath first. Pat and Harry had known Thomas since he was a bump, and both had dealt with many deaths in their own families, so it seemed reasonable to ask them to do this with us.

It's funny, my heart is pounding as I write this, almost two years later.

So, at something like nine or ten in the morning, we presented ourselves at Collins Funeral Home. They directed us upstairs to a room where Thomas's body was laid out in the casket provided by the Army. Eric had assured us that the body was viewable so I was not surprised to find the casket open. It just did not look like Thomas, and yet it did. So much of what distinguished him was the spirit inhabiting that body. I think he was still in uniform, as he would have been sent from Dover. His face was a bit darker than usual but of course he'd spent the previous four weeks in the desert. I saw no evidence of his wound, nor did I ever try to find it. We settled a few more details about changing his clothes to civilian attire as he had told us he wanted, and about moving his body to St. John's for the wake, and then we left. I don't think we'll ever be able to thank Pat and Harry for what they did for us that day.


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