Richard and Maria and I spent this evening watching "Taking Chance". Maria came armed with a wad of tissues and a glass of wine, I held on to a tissue, the dog lay down at my feet. They were prepared to laugh at me because I cry so easily (Maria gave me 2-1/2 minutes before I would break down) but from beginning to end you could have heard a pin drop in my living room. Yes, there were tears, but they were not all mine.
Chance Phelps, the fallen Marine whose body Col. Strobl escorted home, was eight days younger than Thomas. He died seven months before Thomas did. They seem to have shared an ability to inspire affection and to get more out of life more than most of us manage in 80 years. I guess we'll send it back to Netflix, but I sort of want to keep it--watching the interviews with his family and platoon felt almost like hearing from Thomas's friends too.
Part of this is because I had lunch yesterday with one of the other November 2004 mothers--it is always good to see her, but it is bittersweet. We talked about our sons' deaths and realized (probably not for the first time, but these things are difficult to remember) that Thomas's body arrived home the day that her son was killed. They were not on the same plane, they almost certainly were not at Dover at the same time. Her son is buried at Arlington and mine is here in Montgomery County. And yet, they are bound together forever in a way by having died in separate pieces of the same action, during a week that saw many casualties. Just thinking now, I realize that Thomas's name was on George Stephanopolis's In Memoriam list that day, but her son, who had died that Sunday morning, was not.
And then today I ran into someone I had not seen in many years, but who had known Thomas as a very little boy. She had kept up with people we knew in common so she knew about his death, but it was a little unsettling to sit and talk about him. It was also comforting. Contradictory notions and yet both true. She sent me a picture this evening of him with a bunch of the kids he had played with while I went to the mother's group at St. Camillus--another piece of his story.