Pfc Shane M. Reifert

Pfc Shane M. Reifert
Shane during a sweep of the Shuryak Valley, approximately 3 weeks before he was killed. Photo Credit: PFC Sean Stromback

Sunday, December 11, 2011

Wreaths Across America

On the second Saturday of December, coordinated wreath laying ceremonies occurred at Veteran cemeteries sponsored by Wreaths Across America. I did not attend the ceremony on Saturday; instead, I went to Great Lakes National Cemetery today. I did not attend the ceremony because my time at the cemetery is filled with quiet reflection.

I am thankful for this group and the many volunteers who gave up their precious time to attend the ceremony. Personally, I know kindhearted people who attended the ceremony, people who knew and loved Shane and everything he stood for. I know the young boys who placed the wreath on Shane’s tombstone.

It was a bitter cold morning, but the sun was shining, which has a tendency to make everything a little bit better. As I turned into the drive, the first things to catch my eye were the flags. Today, all the flags were raised and waving in the wind. It is a magnificent sight – the red, the white, and the blue. It is a brutal reminder of the ultimate sacrifice that Shane freely made to help keep us safe.

I pulled over and parked near Shane’s tombstone. I can sit in the Jeep and view Shane’s final resting spot. I have my little rituals for my visits to the cemetery. Today, we listened to the new cd by the Black Keys from start to finish (no skipping songs because that is one of Shane’s rules for listening to a new album).

I always read poetry when I visit Shane’s grave and today was no exception. On some visits I know which poems I will read, but today, I let the book decide for me. I opened the book and let the page come to me. I brought John O’Donohue’s To Bless the Space Between Us. When I opened my eyes and saw the title of the poem, I closed my eyes and said – no, this must be a mistake, but I did not change my draw. Instead, I read the following poem. And even though the tears did not stop flowing for the longest time, I knew in my heart, this was the poem for the day.

“For Grief”
~ John O’Donohue

When you lose someone you love,
Your life becomes strange,
The ground beneath you gets fragile,
Your thoughts make your eyes unsure;
And some dead echo drags your voice down
Where words have no confidence.

Your heart has grown heavy with loss;
And though this loss has wounded others too,
No one knows what has been taken from you
When the silence of absence deepens.

Flickers of guilt kindle regret
For all that was left unsaid or undone.

There are days when you wake up happy;
Again inside the fullness of life,
Until the moment breaks
And you are thrown back
Onto the black tide of loss.

Days when you have your heart back,
You are able to function well
Until in the middle of work or encounter,
Suddenly with no warning,
You are ambushed by grief.

It becomes hard to trust yourself.
All you can depend on now is that
Sorrow will remain faithful to itself.
More than you, it know its way
And will find the right time
To pull and pull the rope of grief
Until that coiled hill of tears
Has reduced to its last drop.

Gradually, you will learn acquaintance
With the invisible form of your departed;
And when the work of grief is done,
The wound of loss will heal
And you will have learned
To wean your eyes
From that gap in the air
And be able to enter the hearth
In your soul where your loved one
Has awaited your return
All the time.

As I continue to “put one foot in front of the other.”
Always and forever,
Shane’s Mammy and Beth’s Momma