|My Daughter and I at the American Cemetery in Hamm, Luxembourg, in front of the grave of Gen George S. Patton|
My Memorial Service
I want my memorial service to be a book sale. I want my wife, or heirs who inherit the duty of executor, to put copies of my autobiography discretely around the memorial display, preferably close to an American flag, and my old U.S. Air Force uniform, which I want hanging on a wooden hangar on the left side of the display. My book, Confessions of an Old Liberal, hopefully in a tasteful white book jacket, will have to be unsigned, unfortunately, as it hasn't been published yet. My eulogy can be the forward to the book; short, concise and inflated as possible. Maybe they can just read from the jacket liner.
It may be difficult to convince the funeral home to fend off the clergy who will try to claim authority over my soul. Funeral homes seem to have a divine link with the local churches, so local religious powers have an inside track to appeal to grieving family members who are then led to believe without some kind of formal religious guidance, my soul may just wander around North Port looking for a way out.
I often wondered about the overwhelming number of Christians buried in the oversea American War Cemeteries. I visit the American War Cemetery in Hamm, Luxembourg, where General George S. Patton is buried, every time my wife and I go to Germany to see family. The cemetery is located not far from the Luxembourg airport. An occasional Star of David breaks up the symmetry of the row upon row of crosses in the somber reminder of the incredible price America paid to free Europe. The cemetery in Bastogne, Belgium, is the same way, and so is the memorial cemetery just outside Liege. Where are the atheists and the agnostics? What kind of marker did they get? Or did they just get drafted a second time?
The religious powers added “Under God” to the pledge of allegiance when I was in fourth or fifth grade, and changed the law about headstones in all the U.S. Military cemeteries about the same time. Before the early fifties, fallen U.S. service men and women were buried with round headstones with inscriptions. After the religious pressure successfully lobbied Congress, the markers were changed to Christian crosses, the Star of David, and the Crescent Star. The Wiccan Pentacle was added only after a lawsuit by Americans United for the Separation of Church and State in 2007. If you are a veteran, your survivors can choose from among different symbols offered for your old style round headstone by the Veterans Administration, now including the option for “none.” But they don't have a marker for me. My marker would be a question mark.
Even though the club obviously isn't as exclusive as it used to be, apparently there are no agnostics buried in any American military cemeteries. So up in smoke I go.
As Willie Nelson says:
“You won't see no sad and teary eyes
When I get my wings and it's time to fly
Just call my friends and tell them
There's a party, come on by
So just roll me up and smoke me when I die”1
By the way, there will be no discounts on the book. I may be a liberal, but I'm still basically a Capitalist. Now's the time to yank on the heart strings. If the churches can do it, so can I.
George Mindling © 2013
1 "So just roll me up and smoke me when I die" Copyright © 2012 Willie Nelson