My great uncle Chesley died a week ago, and the funeral was today.
I have always had fond memories of Chesley. He married my grandmother's big sister, Sharen. He was always a kind man, who loved to tease, and was an absolute hoot. After Sharen died, he ended up meeting his high school sweetheart at a class reunion, and married her. Sadly, Alice died just a couple years after they got married, which I always thought was very sad.
Chesley tried to join the military as a teenager, he wanted to go to war. He was caught as being underage, so refused. He joined as soon as he legally could, and served in one way or another his entire life. He retired from active duty, but then tried to re-enlist when the first Desert Storm war started. He was denied because by then, he was too old!
He was mayor of Mt. Pleasant, UT for 20 years, and I think he made a real difference for the town.
I saw him last weekend when we had our big family reunion. Even though he's techinically not a relative (remember, he married in), he always came and cracked jokes and visited. I had a nice conversation with him as I baked cookies.
On Memorial Day, he was invited to do several memorial day programs. He gave a speech at each town, and moved on to the next. Afterwards, he was visiting with the other veterens, and they asked him to stick around for a soda. He said he didn't feel like it and went home. He was found a few hours later, in his favorite chair, still in his uniform, with a smile on his face. I really think that is such a nice way to go- he was really healthy, and was able to die with dignity, with his uniform on. I don't think you could ask for much more.
Because he was such an important figure with the local military people, there were a lot of soldiers, past and present, at his funeral. At the end, they did a musical number that was all of the branches of the military songs in a medley. As their song was sung, the soldiers from each branch stood up. They even had a drum (A drum in an LDS chapel?! It was AWESOME!!) accompanying them. It was really moving.
The chapel had more flower arrangements than I have ever seen at a funeral. They were all absolutely beautiful, and the sheer number just took my breath away.
Then, we went out to the cemetary. He had a lot of veterens do a three shot gun salute. It was incredibly moving to watch these veterens get teary eyed as they thought of their comrade. I had never considered myself to be a huge patriot, but this very patriotic funeral was very, very touching. As an odd aside, during the cemetary service, I saw an older woman, all in white, quite a ways away from the area where the service was taking place. She was too far away to hear anything, but she was still watching very intently. When the ceremony was almost over, she got in her car and left.
I felt especially mournful for Chesley's youngest son, CL, and his wife, Sharlotte. He has a daughter who is nearly four who is having some really significant medical problems, and is currently in the hospital. Then, sometime between Chesley's death and today, he and his wife gave birth to an absolutely gorgeous son, whom they decided to name after Chesley. That is so much to go through all at once. My prayers are with them.
All in all, it was a beautiful celebration of life for one of the most incredible people I have ever had the pleasure of knowing.