In memory of John C. Carpenter
(10/25/1918 – 08/20/2012)
We honored my Grandpa’s life yesterday at the beautiful new Miramar National Cemetery with an Air Force funeral service that left no details overlooked.
Six uniformed Air Force members marched in unison, meticulously carrying about the task of transporting Grand Dad’s casket from the traditional horse-drawn carriage to the landing where the service took place. In the highest honor possible, as a group, they ceremoniously folded the American flag in preparation to give to Grandma. One servicemen sounded the bugle by playing Taps, a familiar tune I had never been privy to hear in person or with such great reverence, while three other servicemen fired a gun salute in Grandpa’s honor.
The gentle breeze nudged me with a feeling of pride to be part of his legacy. A highly accomplished Lieutenant Colonel with the United States Air Force, he dedicated his career and life to serving his country. He lived 93 years, and as Grandma said, they had “a beautiful, beautiful life together.”
Throughout the brief service, I glanced around at the expanding family he created and nurtured. Four generations of Carpenters gathered to say goodbye and support one another. The youngest generation being young babies, I couldn’t help but contemplate the cycle of life and death. I visualized the funeral ceremony 93 years ago of the family patriarch when Grandpa himself was just a baby.
I’m sure it was incredibly difficult to sum up Grandpa’s magnificent life into a 20 minute celebration. How could you? Apparently he had his own obituary already written ahead of time, but I wonder if he ever thought about what would be said about him in front of his family on the day of his burial. I don’t think many people do. Would that influence you to live a kinder, more meaningful life? Now that I think about it that way, I believe it does.
I barely knew my Grandpa. In fact, I was surprised to learn his middle name was Corbin, and that he had four sisters. Despite this, I am at peace with our relationship, or lack there of, and the many things that were left unsaid. Instead, I am grateful for the lesson he taught me in his death. The lesson to live a full life, a life of love and meaning, contribution and service, and to be proud of who you are and how you live.
At the closing of the ceremony when the decorated Air Force member presented Grandma with the flag, I choked up for the first time. I heard sniffles from the group, and could see Grandma, a frail old woman with a sharp memory and heart of gold, visibly shaken and trying to process the magnitude of what was happening at that moment. Even at almost 90 years old, after 67 years of marriage, a widow is still a widow. A painful loss we all know is possible, but worth the risk in order to share a lifetime of everlasting love with your soul mate.