Tuesday, December 05, 2006

I always watch the people taking Communion. That day we were kneeling in the front row and could see everyone who came to our side, including Tim who we had not seen in too long a time.

After Communion, three speakers talked about Thomas. Anna went first and talked about how her little brother had grown into a man away from our sight. Tom Tobin, Thomas's senior English teacher and advisor to the Catholic Club at his high school talked about the insights Thomas had into St. Augustine's concept of eternity and also about his faithful attendance of meetings and nursing home visits, as well as the friendship they had. Thomas was a part of Tom's family: babysitting when in high school, going over for dinner when he was home on leave from the Army. Thomas's friend Christina spoke last. They never officially dated, he just loved her. Christina knew more about who Thomas had grown to be than we did: he would talk to her on the phone and e-mail her far more often than he did us. He had told her that he just wanted to be an ordinary man: that when he came home from the Army he would go to college to become an English teacher, get married, have a family. It brought me some peace to know that he had not been as adrift as he sometimes appeared when he came home, that he had thought seriously and realistically about what he was going to do and how he was going to do it.

At last, there was a closing prayer and then it was time to go. The pallbearers we had asked (friends, a cousin) accompanied his casket out of the church. We stood up as a family and followed. Matthew's best friend, also named Matthew, had been sitting with us during the service but with perfect timing he returned to his own family at that point. I remember walking by all of those people and out the front of the church, where the military honor guard removed the white pall from the casket and replaced it with the American flag that had been folded and placed next to Thomas during the wake. Then the casket went into the hearse and we as a family climbed into the limousine for the trip to the cemetery. Several photographers were standing on the other side of the driveway watching us (the Archdiocesan public relations person was making sure that they were not getting too close): the Washington Post photographer got a picture of all of us standing on the steps looking stunned and sad and that is what appeared in the paper the next day.


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