As Chtrbx and I were talking, I happened to glance at my cell phone. The time read: 6:21 p.m. I interrupted Chtrbx in mid-sentance, holding the phone in front of her.... she said, "What is it?" I choked out, "Look at the time." "Oh," she gasped. "All day I've been thinking aobut this exact minute and what it means...." she trailed off, and I said, "Yeah. Me too." For several moments, we stood there wordlessly, each lost in our own thoughts of the moment... looking around at the grave, looking at all the people - many of them Soldiers - who were there to honor Mike's memory. After a while we resumed talking.... though the impact of that moment is not one that will ever leave either of us.
As I said, many soldiers were there - including our medic, Chuck, and his wife, and his grandma. :) It was so good to see them again. Other soldiers I'd met either at the grave or in a parade or God knows how else were there... Chuck introduced me to many of the ones I did not know beforehand. Mike's widow, Niki, was there - she is so sweet, it was good to see her again. And of course, Mike's dad & stepmom were there as well.
After everyone had arrived, Robert called us all around the gravesite to share a few words with us. I made sure to stand by our medic for moral support (that "protective Momma Kat" thing, you know). I do not remember all Robert said, but I do remember him saying that Mike would want everyone to life happy, full lives... and not to stay bogged down in grief and despair. He said "Taps was played here one year ago at the funeral... now it's time to play "Revellie" and charge forward and live life to its fullest!" And it was really weird that he said that, because when we were planning the 4th of July parade, the parade chairman had a plan to have a riderless horse in the parade -- and a bugler to play "Taps" in honor of Mike, and then "Revellie" in honor of all the soldiers who remain to continue the mission. It didn't quite work out the way it was planned the day of the parade... but that was the intent...and when Robert said that, I got chills remembering that.
After he said a few words, Robert led us all in a brief prayer. Tears slid down my cheeks as I listened to him thank God for Mike's life and for all the blessings God has given their family. It occured to me then that this, in a sense, sort of "made up for" the fact that I was unable to attend Mike's funeral last year, because I didn't know when it was going to be, etc. After the prayer, Robert asked people to share stories of Mike... and many did. Let's see...there was the farting contest story...the "somewhat intoxicated frog-catching expedition" story (I knew that one already from Chuck and started laughing once I figured out what he was gonna tell about, haha), the "mooning his buddies in Iraq" story, the high school "Dad, I'm gonna be a cheerleader, OK?" story.... and so on and so forth. Needless to say, by the time the evening was over with, I had done enough laughing to counteract the crying, and left the cemetary with a considerably lighter heart -- which is EXACTLY as Mike would have wanted it.