Tuesday, December 3, 2013

A Tribute

While bustling around the kitchen on Thanksgiving, my sister-in-law called me out. "You know, I haven't seen a blog post in awhile."

"I know," I replied. "It just hasn't felt right."

Since my last post, we traveled over 3000 miles, helped my mother-in-law plan her husband's funeral, prepared a Thanksgiving feast and hosted houseguests for the majority of November. 

Today is the first day since November 5th that's felt any semblance at all to normal.

And believe me, I have plenty of things to discuss. But my diet, how our family is feeling relative to food, our latest cocktail and the recipes I'm cooking all seem so shallow and insignificant to write about. So I've done what I do best. 


And I know there's no way I'll return to normal without sharing a few thoughts over the past month, despite Mr. Musky reading this at his office, swearing me up one side and down the other.

Don't worry, Honey. Think of this as a kind of tribute to your family.

My heart aches. Still. For my family, the family I now include as my own. For Ron's twin brother and sisters, his brothers- and sisters-in-law, and his nieces and nephews. For the people who knew him as a baby and little boy and helped shaped him into the man he became - the devoted husband, father, grandfather, brother and uncle everyone loved.

My heart aches for Ron's friends. The ones who knew him as a young twenty-something, a golfing partner, or as a neighbor. Who shared fun times and hold great memories of an easy-going, laid-back guy. 

My heart aches for his kids. For my sister-in-law, who will always be "Daddy's girl," and will miss him walking her down the aisle on her wedding day. For my brother-in-law, who felt he lost his truest connection to family. For my husband, who grieves in solitude because that's where he's most comfortable, but occasionally cracks the door open so I can offer comfort disguised as hugs and kisses.

My heart aches for my own children. Who were struck down at the knees with the first, most painful kind of grief they've had to endure as kids. Who miss their grandfather terribly, and also saw their own father grieve and cry openly, learning that it is OK to demonstrate extreme emotion when it becomes overwhelming.

My heart aches for my mother-in-law. For the emptiness she surely feels, and the ache in her own heart for the one person who knew and loved her best.

On the day we laid him to rest, I will never, ever forget the slow, deliberate salutes his fellow American soldiers performed as his body rode past to the site where full military honors remembered the service and price he paid for our country as a Purple Heart Veteran of the Vietnam War. I will remember forever the explosion in my ears as twenty-one shots rang out into the cold and grey November morning, the lonely trumpet sounding Taps, and the reminder of God's promises as Amazing Grace rang true on the bagpipes. Seared forever in my mind is the face of the young Marine on bended knee in front of my mother-in-law, gravely handing her the flag that draped over the casket, his clear blue eyes never wavering or denying a thread of truth in the solemn words he spoke:

"On behalf of a grateful nation
the President of the United States 
and all of the Armed Forces 
it is an honor to present this flag
for the honorable service your loved one
gave to our nation."

Nor will I forget watching the tears flow down the cheeks of a veteran who presented my mother-in-law with spent cartridges. A man who openly wept with our family for a fellow soldier, despite having never met any of us before that day. A man who grieved with us and offered this token:

"The Abraham Lincoln National Cemetery Memorial Squad
is honored to present these spent cartridges
representing the three volleys
fired in recognition of your loved one's honorable service."

Since November 5th, I can only describe what we've been doing as clinging. We are clinging to one another and slowing down to truly appreciate the people who mean the most to us. Yes, we are all moving forward, but not without the acute reminder that life is precious and fleeting, and there are not enough "I love yous" in the world to effectively convey the importance of time well spent with family and friends.

Ronald Anthony Czupek, I am blessed to have known you, and am honored to have been your daughter-in-law. I will cherish your kind hearted, tell-it-like-it-is personality always, and am forever grateful for the time we spent together, especially at the driving range where you taught me the fundamentals of a good golf swing. I look forward to rejoicing with you someday in eternity where we will both hit every shot perfectly.


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