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

Monday, June 18, 2012

The Brutality and the Beauty

Earlier in the week, I headed off to Great Lakes National Cemetery with Jane (Shane’s godmother) and two of Shane’s cousins, Jillian and Jack. Jane was kind enough to drive; I was still weary from a very trying year of teaching. My mood perfectly matched the weather – gloomy. It was overcast; and, at times, rain came from the sky.

My mood improved as I caught up chatting with Jane, Jillian, and Jack. Jillian is getting married in a couple of weeks, and Jack recently graduated from college. The Kronners had already purchased their flowers to place at Shane’s grave, but I still needed to purchase my flowers. We stopped and I made my purchase; I tried avoiding the raindrops, but they kept finding me.

When we arrived at Great Lakes, the rain finally ceased. As we entered the cemetery, I noticed that all the flags were flying, which meant that there was a funeral scheduled for that day. As we were placing the flowers, we could hear the 21-gun salute.

And then the brutality of our visit hit me to the core. Never in a million years did I ever think I would be standing over Shane’s grave. I never believed that life would be this cruel. The four of us shed tears and a few stories. We shared a Coke and sourdough pretzels – that is one of my rituals at the cemetery. I can close my eyes and remember the very last time Shane and I shared a Coke and sourdough pretzels. 

As we drove around the small lake at the cemetery, I noticed two swans in the farthest corner of the lake. 

When we finally made our way around, we noticed that there were not only the two swans, but four cygnets looking for food.

I got out of the car and quietly approached the swans. Their majestic beauty swooped over me with the gift of peace. I inched closer and closer to the swans, not wanting them to swim away or worse yet, attack me. I worked my way through the tall grass and wild flowers. I watched in wonder and awe of the raw beauty of nature. Every once in awhile one of the parents would look my way, but I think they sensed I was not a threat. They allowed me to absorb the tranquility and peace. 

I left the cemetery that day with a deeper appreciation of nature – this thing called nature that helped heal this broken heart.

As I continue to “put one foot in front of the other.”


Always and forever,
Shane’s Mammy and Beth’s Momma