I was sitting in my nonfiction writing class today and our assignment was this: write about an event that has changed how you see things.
The deal with these assignments is that you must write the first thing that comes to mind so I started to write about Andrew Wilfahrt's funeral. It was the first military funeral I had ever attended and it was stunning to every part of me....my senses, heart, mind.
How I have placed that funeral and Andrew's life into my own has been something of a quest for me. I have always been fascinated with the idea of pivotal moments. I never really felt like I'd had many. I understood his funeral was big and important, but how so? and why? Especially to me, a distant shirt-tail relative by marriage. That day was not for these ruminations....all I could do at that time was absorb the moments of grief and loving memories.
I know I wasn't looking for Taps and the Freedom Brigade, but there they were. Bit and pieces of that day float around inside of me. I wonder if they will ever fully settle.
Why I felt so drawn to the space of his memory, to the day of his funeral, to Andrew and his life didn't completely make sense to me until I dated my assignment February 26th and then I got it. Tomorrow is the third anniversary of his death.
I believe in stuff like this. I believe if you are present and open and vulnerable to the gifts life has to offer you, there are no coincidences. Your spirit is drawn to spaces and times and moments because you welcome them.
Since that cold March day I have opened myself up and let so much in simply because I could not see another way. I did not cover my ears when Taps played or avoid his parents as they mourned or ignore my tears as they fell. I did not disregard the notion that this experience just might change my life.
And it did.
I feel this so acutely. Andrew, a sweet, intelligent, passionate soldier gave up the gift of his life for me. I don't mean to be trite or melodramatic, but I really believe this.
I am still working on ways to honor this gift. I have started mostly by recognizing the parts of me that were always there...the feeler, the writer, the caring and hopeful person who really wants to make a difference in the world. I have come out swinging since that day, and I believe I am only getting started.
Andrew's dad shared this video with us and I think it's perfect. Listen and give a little shout-out to Andrew. He is dearly missed, but he is living on in so many of us.