I did fine in the choking up department until I walked out of the chapel behind the cadet who was holding Marvin's ashes. I felt under control but found that my breath came in little sobs, which irritated me as the videographer was right in front of me and I thought, "Give me a break, you exploitative bastard, and point that camera somewhere else." I know my face looked like the mask of tragedy. No matter how hard I tried, it steadfastly maintained a grimace of pain. It was like facial muscle rebellion: "Hey lady, we've managed the professional 'healing-smile' thing for an hour now. Something's gotta give."
Maybe I could have the professional compassionate smile permanently etched in by a plastic surgeon, or tattooed on. My Aunt Pearl and Aunt Mae, bless their glamorous little septugenarian hearts, both have eyeliner tattooed on. Can you stand it? And I am here to say that they're both piss elegant. They slay me. I took a photo of Auntie Mae at the reception and she looks dewier and prettier than most girls look on their Sweet 16th. I know she'll never have another Marvin but I do hope some lovely older man (or younger! hey!) keeps her good company in these coming years.
You should know that it was absolutely pouring rain when we got to the chapel and that as I was giving the final prayer, the sun came out and shone through the windows. People gasped. I had somehow expected it. Not because of some miraculous sign from God but because we were in the Hudson Valley and I thought it just might happen that weather patterns would change rapidly. That timing, though, was exquisite.
When I walked slowly out of the chapel and into the sunlight and saw all of those soldiers at attention in the cemetery, I almost crumbled. But I thought to myself, "You do the God part, they do the country part. Get up on your hind legs and don't give those boys any reason to think of religious leaders as big wusses."
I did the commital without shedding a tear and then stepped back as the military took over. When the 21 gun salute went off, I jumped a bit but stayed collected. I watched the flag folding ceremony with tremendous respect: that stuff is absolutely fascinating. But when they played "Taps," I sobbed into my hankie. There was no way I could not. I was only happy that I was discreet in my sobbing, but I still heard my sister whisper to one of my cousins, "[PeaceBang's] losing it." I thought, "Good God, no matter how much dignity you try to have in life, there's always a big sister around to bust you."
And I was glad.