This past week was Veteran’s Day. A couple of weeks ago, on the last Friday in October which was sunny and cold, our little family laid to rest our last World War Two veteran.
I called him Uncle Frank because he was a few years older than my mother and I was taught to address adults with respect and the title of Uncle was a way to indicate that. He was actually my mother’s first cousin which made him my first cousin once removed. But that’s too complicated for a child so it was Uncle Frank and Aunt Lorraine. As I approached adulthood, both Lorraine and Frank insisted that I drop the title and have a more casual relationship with them. They were a kind and wonderful couple and I didn’t see them enough. Lorraine past away nine years ago and one by one, his loved ones passed away until he was the last man standing of his generation.
He served in the Pacific theater in the war, in the United States Navy. But he didn’t talk about it much around me. In fact, he was a man of few words, but great joy and service. He worked at Chrysler for 31 years and faithfully served his church as an usher for 55 years. Every time he saw me, he had a smile that lit up the room and would tell everyone how, when I was a little girl, I would always run up to greet him with a hug. It obviously delighted him.
His son asked me to join as a pallbearer, and I think Frank would have liked that. In between two burly cousins and across from Mike, we accompanied Frank on the last few steps of his journey. The burden was light because we did it together. The burden was light because it was Frank. It was a small thing to serve such a good man.
He made you feel special and loved whether at church or at a family gathering, he was happy to see you. The world could use more people like Frank. I am sad to see him go, but I know he’s happy to be with his parents, his brothers, and especially Lorraine.
Rest in peace, Frank. I’ll be seeing you.
Donna Kemper put aside her art career to care for a mother she hadn't seen in over a decade. For seven years she followed her mother's journey into dementia, caring for her and putting forgiveness into action.