honoring a great man

this is not a normal post.

August 2019.

Today we gathered to pay our respects the way he would have liked: with men in uniforms firing guns in tribute to his great service to his great nation.

Ten men–one with a horn, seven carrying one rifle a piece, and two carrying a flag marched in time out to greet us all, in varying shades of black and faded black, all of us wearing sunglasses to hide our varying degrees of grief.

I heard that if you press your tongue to the roof of your mouth, you can stop yourself from crying.

—— that doesn’t work when the man with the horn starts to play Taps to honor your dead grandfather.

Through the tears and sniffles, three men present a flag to his widow, and my Nana weeps, and so do we beside her.

“On behalf of the president of the United States of America, we are honored to present this flag to you in gratitude for your husband’s service to this country.”

As the honor guard retreats, the silence is deafening. All of us frozen in time. I stared straight ahead, at nothing, at everything, all blurry from tears as they left. Then, we all came together in one big after another after another until we could no longer. Until someone finally said, “is it lunch time now?”

His ashes sat at our table. The weight up him felt heavy in my heart the whole day. I’ve been holding him close since he’d gotten sick. Feeling the guilt of being thousands of miles away, and then he was gone mentally. Then gone forever. And then there he sat in this pine box, just sitting there like he knew I was feeling this weight.

I don’t know why, but at some point, I picked up my drink and “Cheers, Grandpa,” right up against that fucking box. It wasn’t like the weight lifted. It wasn’t this moment of clarity or this epiphany or anything, but he would have liked it, and it felt right to do it.

So I did.

We honored a great man today. And we do it again on Saturday. Another day where I’ll try to press my tongue against the roof of my mouth to stop my tears. He was a hero. He was the only really stable person in my life and he made everyone’s life better.

this is the before.

there isn’t an after photo because we’re all

too red in the face,

too teary

too much tissue

too in shock, despite it having been months ago

too hurt

too quiet



November 2019.

I wrote this post the day after we had the VFW honor my grandfather. In August. I’m looking at this post for the first time since then today, November 15th. I’m still not done grieving. I still don’t know what to say or how to deal with this loss. It hurts to talk about, and this last Monday, on Veteran’s Day, there wasn’t a man to honor this year, to think about — this year, I’ll be honoring him in May, for a completely different holiday and that hurt my heart in such a different way. I wasn’t expecting it.


Author: chelsea usher

Reader. Writer. Book Reviewer. Teacher. Traveler

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