Listening and Being Present

Earlier this week I presided at a burial interment at Quantico National Cemetery. An 86-old woman was being buried alongside her husband, an Army veteran, who has passed away in the mid-1990s. The woman was born in 1947 in Berlin amidst the destruction and occupation following the war. She met her GI husband and they fell in love. He wanted to remain in Germany, but she wanted to start their new life together in the United States. It is not an uncommon story. They were married some 38 years when her husband passed away. She lived as a widow for the next 28 years. She outlived all her family here and in Germany. There was no one to carry the stories of her life into the next generation. There was no family member to arrange her funeral or burial. She had friends at the care facility where she resided independently, but they too were advanced in years.

One of her friend’s daughter had come to know her through her own mother’s friendship. Her own mom passed away five years ago, but she continued to regularly visit her new “aunt” and made her part of the family. The “niece” was there at the end, made the arrangements and, along with her husband, were the only people at the graveside. And we heard stories of an amazing life.

It was a grace to meet the “niece” and her husband. We all need to be reminded that there is goodness in the world that can be shown in most simple of ways: listening and being present.

2 thoughts on “Listening and Being Present

  1. Thank you for sharing, there are a lot of these stories as the greatest generation passes on. Thank you for presiding at her internment. I have heard many of the stories of people that came to the US after the war. They are quite common in Canada, and there are at least a few at St. Francis. My father in law was one of them – he was a member of the II corps of the Polish army. He was freed from a Soviet gulag work camp to join it. The story took years to piece together in various conversations in his back yard. These people that came to America with little, but found a life here, and made a difference.

    Thank you for your service and compassion.

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