Sunday, May 26, 2013


Yesterday, my Dad's ashes were interned at the cemetery at Fort Rosecrans in Point Loma, California.

The cemetery is just about completely full. They'll stop offering internments soon, and it's next to impossible to actually get a burial plot.

The ceremony organizer met us at the gate and we drove to an area with covered seating. Some flower arrangements in Red White and Blue had been set up. We sat down to a small speech my the organizer. He explained the significance of the awning and being interred in Fort Rosecrans. The speech was clear, respectful, and well rehearsed. After a hidden trumpeter played Taps, and the organizer talked about the significance of the tune, two Sailors unfolded a flag, displayed it for us, and folded it again to perfection in silence. Once done, the senior Sailor knelt and presented the flag to Mom with a short, clear, heart felt speech recognizing Dad's work in the Navy and our family.

The organizer took the urn (a nice, chestnut box) and carried it with him to the wall. Once at the wall, he passed the box off to my brother, who carried it to the wall. A worker was waiting on a tall ladder to put the box into the wall. (The Organizer joking called him 'Tall Mike' to ease the mood.) Dad's spot is near the end of a wall, over looking the harbor. The Organizer joked that they would promote Dad Harbor Master - another attempt to ease the tension. As inappropriate as it may sound, I think the attempts at humor were appreciated. He explained that there will be room for Mom should she opt to be included in the wall in Dad's space later on down the road. His plate would be done in about 6 weeks.

Now, my family isn't big on burials. Dad's internment is a product of family history (due to Dad's naval service, there are Munderloh's in the San Diego area) and the service and internment was free - earned by his service in the military. He was just at the tail end of his Naval service when he met my mom. Actually, he almost didn't get married because they wanted to send him to Gnome, Alaska!

Left photos - the walls of Interment. Right photos - the view from the interment area. Center - Dad's Marker, awaiting carving.
I don't think Dad is 'there'. I doubt that the dead have any real concern about where their body ends up. Memorials and burials are for the living. So the living have a 'place' to go, to cry, to heal, to gather... a hard and fast stone with a name on it to bring comfort to those left behind. Something that says, "This person was here."

But the legacies we leave on this earth go far past that - So here's a little matter of perspective.

As we were leaving the internment area, we met a woman in her 40's carrying a young boy. The little boy was about 2 years old, maybe 3. They were taking in the view. As I turned to go, I overheard the woman say she was the cute little boy's grandmother. They were here with the boy's mother, visiting his father - who was killed 2 years ago in battle in Afghanistan. As I walked away, I noticed a young woman, probably in her early 20's, crouching, her hand on a marble plaque like Dad's, only this soilder was on the lowest level. Her face was quietly pained, eyes closed in reverance. I remember how remarkably young she looked. I absently wondered if it was a father, grandfather, brother or sister she was moarning.

I got in my car and put on my seat belt. The woman with the young boy walked out towards the parking lot, taking the same route I did. As I started my rental car, I checked my rear view mirror.

The young woman crouched by the stone had emerged, to join the grandmother. She took the young boy into her arms and hugged him as they prepared to go.

The gravity hit me.

I got a lifetime with my dad. Most of us get that - a lifetime with our parents. Even if they aren't the people we wish they were. Even if we have our differences, annoyances, arguments. Even if you're blessed with winning the parent lottery like I am - we all had those experiences. We got that lifetime or those years.

Odds are, this little boy never met his dad. 

If he did meet his dad, he probably will only know him through photographs and through the actions and stories of others. It's very rare to have memories before 2 years old.

There is never a good time to lose someone we love. But, man, were we lucky that we got to have a lifetime...

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