Thursday, April 27, 2006


Two days later, I received the news of Ed`s death. According to his Mom, it seemed likely that I was the last person to speak to him. Patient notes indicated that he had slipped into a coma in the evening of my visit. His Mom asked if he seemed peaceful when I saw him, I told her yes. There was no need to mention the war.

Ed`s funeral was held in Kensington, within blocks of his home. Barbara, Sean and I came in separate cars so that I could stay awhile. As we entered the viewing room I had second thoughts about my decision to bring Sean. Which was more important, our coming as a family or his being shielded from these images? I had mixed feelings as we approached the casket.

The coffin was closed, an American flag fully draping it. On top of the flag, to the left, was a picture of Ed in an army dress uniform, something I had never seen before. I felt relief for Sean, yet confusion about the military pomp. I believed that the last thing Ed would have liked to define his life was his involvement in the Vietnam War. Yet, it wasn`t my decision. I had only to respect his parent`s wishes.

After a prayer at the casket I brought Barbara and Sean to where Ed`s parents were grieving. They hadn`t ever met Barbara and hadn`t seen Sean for a few years. Sean brought a smile to Ed`s parents, making me feel more comfortable about my decision to bring him. I walked my family out to the car and stood outside while they drove away.

I lit a cigarette, standing outside the small funeral home. A tap on the shoulder turned me to face two friends from the National Guard, men who had joined the reserves in the same month that Ed and I had enlisted.

“Hi, Bob, Jim. Thanks for coming.”

“How ya doin` Vince?” said Bob, as we shook hands. “Man, this is such a shame. What happened? Was he sick?”

“Yes, he`d been sick for awhile” I replied. “He had liver and kidney problems.”

“Damn. Such a waste. Ed was a good man. I just can`t believe this. Did he suffer much?”

“Yeah, I think he`s been suffering for awhile now” I replied. “Maybe since the war.”

I finished my cigarette and led them into the funeral home, pointing out Ed`s parents for them. Sitting down in the smoking room, I met John, the only one of the old gang to come that evening. I had known John would come; he was a good man, always had a good heart. Before we had a chance to speak, the priest had arrived for the evening prayers and we joined the others in front of the casket.

Along with family and friends, I noticed six men standing near the casket, dressed in jeans, some in army fatigue jackets. I had never seen them before, wondered who they were.