Monday, July 18, 2016

American Families

“Ruth is on top, finally,” said my brother-in-law. We were at Arlington National Cemetery to bury my wife’s mother, Ruth Kosiavelon. The graves are all in straight lines there like soldiers in formation — ever ready, as the cemetery tour guide described them. We had buried my father-in-law, Theodore Kosiavelon there four years ago and Ruth’s coffin was to be situated above his because there isn’t room to put spouses beside dead soldiers. Her inscription would be etched into the back of his stone.
Ruth was Ted’s second wife, loved and respected as mother to children and step-children. Nearly all made the trip down along with friends who had attended her wake and funeral mass back in May. It takes time to arrange a burial at Arlington and they do thirty every day. Ted earned the right to be buried there during World War II when he was wounded in Manila Bay by a Japanese torpedo plane attack. Ruth wouldn’t be anywhere but with Ted and so we all gathered again for her ceremony. It’s the end of an era because Ruth the last remaining member of the greatest generation on my wife’s side.
Leaving from the Portland Jetport last Wednesday night, we bumped into conservative commentator Tucker Carlson. He has a place in Andover, Maine where he told us President Obama got only one vote in the last election. It was a different story in Washington, DC where Obama remains popular. The Obama effect is evident all over town. In the guided tour of the Arlington National Cemetery, blacks laid to rest there were mentioned most prominently, from Supreme Court Justice Thurgood Marshall, some Tuskegee Airman, Frank E. Petersen Jr. who was the first black Marine general, Matthew Henson who was with Admiral Peary when he discovered the North Pole, and so on. Museums we toured showed similar influence where attention is constantly called to the first black this and the first black that.
Ruth last Christmas

World-wide, there was a lot going on last week but I couldn’t study events as closely as I usually do with doing the tourist things as well as commiserating with family. The five Dallas police officers killed last week were being laid to rest, then three more were killed in Louisiana. A Muslim terrorist killed 85 with a truck in France. Information about torture at the November Paris nightclub attack emerged after the French government withheld it for months. Indiana Governor Mike Pence, to whom I’d been introduced by a mutual friend during an earlier trip, was selected as Donald Trump’s running mate.
It stresses me when I can’t find time to keep up with world events and last week I was falling further behind with so much going on. Ruth had always tried to keep up too and I’ll miss getting her perspective. After the burial we all gathered in the revolving sky dome restaurant on the 14th floor of the Doubletree Hotel in Crystal City. The Pentagon is nearby with Arlington National Cemetery beyond, and we could see across the Potomac to the Washington Monument. Ruth had bought everyone a round of drinks at the sky dome when be buried Ted and we all toasted her memory.
Also at the hotel was a reunion of another extended family calling itself the Demery, Farley, Syas, Taylor Family. Four hundred of them wore red tee-shirts and I’d get snippets of information from members during elevator conversations. In an extended discussion with one member I learned they’re all descended from two brothers who were “free people of color” in the late 18th and early 19th centuries and fought in the Battle of New Orleans. For this, they were granted special permission to live as free blacks in Louisiana, which would not otherwise have allowed it. Their descendants have kept in touch for two centuries and still meet every two years.
Four ladies of Stiles family at Olive's lonely grave

And speaking of family reunions, last week I guided members of the Stiles Family to the lonely, 1848 grave of ancestor Olive Stiles for the third time after I wrote about finding it in 2007. It’s on the slope of Stiles Mountain in the White Mountain National Forest. Ten of them were making a side trip from their larger reunion in New York City.
As she lay on her death bed Ruth told her loved ones she knew she was going to her Lord. That awareness gave her strength to die with peace and dignity, which in turn helped ease the loss for everyone. Also, the DSFT family reunion activities included “Family Worship” on Sunday, the day we left. Awareness of where we come from strengthens us all. Our founding fathers understood that and referred to our Creator at our country’s birth — a good thing to keep in mind at a time when our country and the families which make it up are feeling the strain of troubled times.


Michael Corthell said...

My condolences to you and your family. Heartfelt and very well written my friend. See you on my show...soon.

Tom McLaughlin said...

Thanks Mike.