By: Kim Hasty
My dad’s ribbons and medals are somewhere in my parents' home, and I’m making a point in this new year to gather them. He and I attended a
funeral together recently. Social distancing guidelines these days prevent people from attending funerals the way we had become accustomed to back when throngs of people would crowd into the church sanctuary without fear of catching a virus that has become a global pandemic.
The ladies of the church used to follow a funeral service with platters of fried chicken and ham for the family, and the congregation would hug each
other hard. I swear to you, I know we are all missing weddings and parties and things like that these days but the healing love to be found at a church funeral is the thing I think I am missing the most.
This funeral was a special one to me and my dad. It was the funeral of an Air Force colonel with whom my dad had become close when the two served together, decades ago, at the U.S. Air Force Airlift Center at Pope Air Force Base. It seems serendipitous to me that my husband and I later became close friends with the colonel’s daughter and her husband. At one point in our lives, we were two young couples living on the same street with our young children.
It was such a sweet time. We were busy and stressed, and we never felt we had enough moments in the day to get everything done. It was always my opinion that the colonel’s daughter came as close as anyone to making it all look easy.
Gosh, what I wouldn’t give to go back to those days for just awhile.
“John was a friend first,” my dad told me as we drove to the church. “And a colonel second.”
Col. John Fox’s funeral was beautiful. Two young military airmen with just a couple stripes on the starched shoulders of their blue uniforms presented the colors. They folded that American flag more steadfastly and more crisply than you can imagine as those of us sitting in the pews all watched, silent and spellbound.
They presented the flag to Henrianne Fox, Col. Fox’s widow. I would have given those airmen a promotion right then and there, if it had been up to me.
Col. Fox’s son was sitting next to Henrianne. Next was the younger of Col. Fox’s two daughters and her children, the grandchildren he had loved so dearly.
The only family members missing were his other daughter – my friend from long ago – and her two children and her husband, all of whom had preceded Col. Fox in death.
I couldn’t help but think that life passes so quickly and that we can’t help but take things for granted. We cannot see what’s coming in the days ahead that may rob us of some wonderful years, some good times ahead. We believe that people will be with us forever. We think that we’ll always be so busy, and our children will always be young.
A rifle team fired three volleys and then taps was played in salute to Col. John Fox, a man who had loved serving his country. My dad and I took a moment to look at all of Col. Fox’s medals and ribbons that someone had framed and placed at the altar.
My own father, who recently retired after a life of completing two careers, working very long hours and taking good care of his family, earned a slew of those Air Force medals and ribbons himself back in the day.
I realize they are just symbols, really. That it is the man of whom I am so proud, who continues to live a life deserving of those things, who really matters. But I mean to gather them anyway.