Sadly yesterday I once again assumed the role of the funeral guy, a role I don’t much care for, but feel responsible to fulfill. I often attend funerals as a family representative or in my dad’s place particularly if the service is being held at Rose Hills or Forest Lawn, anywhere the terrain is difficult for him to navigate with his walker. But for this particular service my dad let me know right away that he would be attending. He had known the deceased, Daniel Vasquez since they were young kids growing up in Azusa. Daniel was also one of his compadres and he wanted to be there for him.
Not only did my dad and I attend, but my wife, and sister did as well. In fact she drove my dad and my wife to the service and I went on my own later. I teach a Work Experience class on Thursday mornings and as it was our first class meeting, I needed to be there. Actually I was a little surprised that my sister attended. Daniel and his wife are my sister’s Godparents and I had hoped she would go but she is usually reluctant to attend funeral services, a condition that dates back to my mother’s passing over twenty years ago, but she was there and I know my dad was pleased that she went.
The service was beautiful! An incredibly touching tribute and celebration of life for a man who placed his love of family and love of country above all else. Daniel was a decorated WWII Marine hero, who fought and was injured at Battle of Iwo Jima, a proud American who stood just yards away at the famous raising of the flag on Iwo Jima on the 5th day of fighting. His military funeral complete with Marine honor guard, gun volley salute, folding of the casket flag and taps was done with reverence and respect.
In addition to the more common elements of military funerals Daniel’s service included something I had never seen at a funeral before, an aerial salute, a flyover by military aircraft in what is known as “the missing man flyby.” I tell you, it was incredible to watch the vintage aircraft fly low overhead, a trail of colored smoke in their wake. They then banked around and passed over head again, as they pulled away in the distance each plane veered off in separate directions until they were out of sight. The aircraft performing the pull-up, split off, or missing from the formation, is honoring the person who has died, and represents their departure to the heavens. Truly awesome and befitting a veteran of Daniel’s caliber.
At the reception that followed a very touching audio video memorial that incorporated photos,old home movie clips and a wide array of heartfelt music was presented. I don’t think there was a dry eye in the house. I tell ya, that guy could limbo! But seriously every aspect of the funeral service was meaningful and thought-provoking. A truly memorable memorial. The family went to a tremendous amount of time and effort to put together this incredible tribute to a great and deserving husband, father, grandfather, great grandfather, uncle, compadre, friend and hero. He will never be forgotten and will be missed…
Until we meet again on the other side of the Light…
Farewell old friend