For we know that if the earthly tent we live in is destroyed, we have a building from God, an eternal house in heaven, not built by human hands. – 2 Corinthians 5:1
This is not a eulogy for Paul McMahan (my brother-in-law Tom’s dad), so much as an observation of something remarkably special. Sure, I met Paul a number of times, and I have heard many of the family stories, but I did not really know him beyond reputation. I know he was a good man, a faithful man, a family man, and a decorated captain in the U.S. Navy; he was a child of God – and he celebrated that truth, he was a much loved husband and father, and he served his country with distinction.
It is the “serving his country” part I want to focus on today. Because if I learned anything at all from my first military funeral service at Arlington National Cemetery, I learned how completely such service is appreciated in return.
I knew, intellectually, that Arlington is a big deal. But it wasn’t until I watched Paul McMahan’s coffin being transferred from the hearse to the horse-drawn caisson – under the watchful eye of a guard of honor, a military band, and a team ready to fire their three-volley salute – that I began to understand the level of respect and the depth of the relationship forged between those who wear a uniform and the nation they have sworn to protect.
My brother-in-law Tom lost his father just two days after his wife (Rebekah’s sister, Rachel) passed away. But the logistics of such an occasion require time, and the family were finally able to say their goodbye’s yesterday – Monday, August 9. Rebekah and I were there to represent the Alexander side of the family.
The ceremony, the music, the salutes, the care, the gravity, the precision, and the authenticity of the funeral all coalesced into an occasion that impressed me deeply and commented not just on the man – Paul McMahan – but on this nation, the United States of America.
Everything possible was wrapped into the ceremony, including faith in God, history, tradition, belief, liberty, democratic ideals, war and sacrifice, peace, decency, respect, and the yearning of all people for a place where freedom still rings with such clarity and perseverance.
Arlington, yesterday morning, was about respect. Respect for the deceased, yes; respect for the institutions that keep us free, absolutely; but respect also for one another – for those serving and for those of us who are civilians; respect for government and respect for process.
God help us if we lose this respect for one another – DEREK
Here is the story, in pictures. A lot of images, yes, but a story worth looking at…