My husband and I returned from a short trip to Rome, Italy this past Wednesday, the 20th. He was going to a conference so I went along to play tourist. Even there though we found ourselves talking about Thomas--people kept asking how many children we have. But because of Thomas I now feel that I will be able to handle whatever answer people give me when I ask the question. I spent a good deal of time chatting with one woman during a particularly opaque talk--when I asked her how many children she has her answer was slightly startling--she had five but had lost two, so three living. I told her that I too had lost a child, and we sat there holding hands for a moment while we blinked away our tears. Hers had died as newborns which people tend to minimize when they talk to me, but my own feeling is that grief for a child is deep and eternal, no matter how short the time you were able to hold that child. She thanked me afterwards for having told her about Thomas.
Monday morning. Richard had set up three appointments for us: the cemetery, the funeral home, and our pastor. Thomas had specified that he wanted private burial, not Arlington, so we chose the Catholic cemetery, Gate of Heaven, about 15 minutes from our home. It is extremely startling to see "Gate of Heaven" coming up on your caller ID. That was the first appointment, to pick out a plot and arrange for a marker. The cemetery employee was very matter-of-fact about picking a place--we got in her car and drove to a couple of spots. It's not a huge place, but big enough, and we found a place near some large rocks that Thomas would have climbed on as a little kid, with a bench under a tree a few feet away. Then we went back to the office to pick out a marker. We had been looking at other people's markers as we went, trying to figure out what we wanted on his. I wanted something about Iraq on his because people who come after were going to be wondering why someone so young was here, and we wanted to honor who Thomas was. There were space limitations. It may be the most succinct piece of writing we will ever do:
"SPC THOMAS K DOERFLINGER, 6 JUL 1984 - 11 NOV 2004, IRAQ, Beloved son, brother and friend"(this is subject to editing--I thought I had a photograph but I can't find it on the computer right now.)
Then, to the funeral home. We were greeted by Eric, our director, a young man who also was very matter-of-fact. We had already decided that the wake would have to be at our church because this would be a very large crowd of people. Since we knew the body was at Dover but not precisely when we would be able to get it, we composed a death notice with those details to come.