Thursday, August 4, 2011

Funerals

Went to a funeral yesterday.

Funeral was for the GF's uncle, a really great guy.

He was also a veteran. That means he got military honors.You've probably seen military honors on TV... Arlington National Cemetery, marines in white gloves and crisp dress uniforms, rifles firing a 3-volley salute in perfect unison, a bugler playing taps, then the snapping of the flag as it's folded with precision and dignity, and then presented with whispers of gratitude from our country to the family.

That's what we saw yesterday, sorta. This service had a volunteer group that provides military honors for all branches of the military. These are retired military men. They've been retired for a long time. I think I overheard one of them talking about facing Napoleon.

They wore white gloves, but they weren't very crisp. Let's just say that their snap, crackle, and pop have been sitting in milk for a while. The rifle shots were pretty good. And the flag folding went ok. Where the whole thing kinda came undone was Taps.

For my money, Taps is the one thing you really need to do right. It's a funeral. Our volunteers do not include a bugler. Or a trumpet player. Or a tuba player. Instead, it's a guy holding what at least at one time was a bugle. Inside the "bugle" is a speaker that plays a very nice version of Taps, and possibly Reveille, and maybe Boogie-Woogie Bugle Boy.

I'm not saying you have to have a bugler play taps. Recorded taps is cool. But I'd rather have a bugler play taps poorly than recorded taps. And the last option I'd chose is to have recorded taps played from a speaker inside a bugle, with a guy, a very nice volunteer, holding to his lips. It seems wrong.  It's especially wrong if the bugler hits the play button, and waits for a bit with the bugle pressed to his lips, and nothing happens, so he takes a look inside the exit end of the bugle to see if he'd switched it on incorrectly, only to have taps start up, and then he puts the bugle back to his lips. That kinda kills the illusion. Actually, there wasn't much of the illusion left to kill anyway.

Still, it was nice. And I think it's awesome that these old soldiers come out to see to their fallen brothers-in-arms. They were respectful and solemn and gave the service a strong honor vibe.

I was never in the military. There won't be rifle shots, or a folded flag, or even taps played from a magic bugle. And I'm totally cool with that.

Still, it got me thinking. I think it would be great to find a way to honor fallen runners, and by fallen, I mean dead, not just on the ground. It would be nice to have a way to recognize a fellow runner's love for our sport, to send them off.

Here's my idea... during the funeral, at the grave site*, a small group of volunteer runners emerge from over a hill, or around a corner, or somewhere else out of sight, and silently run by the grave site and off back out of sight again, like a flyover.


Imagine it... the grievers, all in black, under umbrellas because there's a light rain, all turning when they hear the footfalls off in the distance, and each turning, slowly, following the runners as they pass, imagining their loved one running with them, and then turning back to the grave when they are out of site. Wouldn't that be cool?

I'll volunteer for runner's honor duty. Who's with me?

Good running,
Doug

*For runners who are being cremated, we could have a ceremonial run-by after the memorial service, or when they are taking the casket out, or something. We'd make it work, without running up and down aisles of a funeral home.

Images from here and here.