half-mast

April 29, 2019

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Today the American flag flew half-mast, proclaiming to all in our city that a great man is gone. When we arrived at the national cemetery, Peter noticed the flag and asked if he had missed some recent tragedy in the news. I told him I didn’t think so … “it’s for PaCharley,” I added. Turns out, it was.
Three volleys of 7 rounds were fired before the graveside service, and empty rounds presented to my grandmother, along with the flag.
Last night my uncle was contacted about expected numbers at the church for the funeral. He was asked to give an estimate, so a few of us began to brainstorm. We listed the expected family members and then moved on to others. Someone suggested that attendance may be light, considering workday hours on a weekday. “I don’t know,” I said. “I wouldn’t be surprised if the city cancelled work for the afternoon, so that people could attend the funeral.” After all, as I know I’ve written oftentimes before, PaCharley never met a soul he didn’t like. A soul.
Sure enough, the sanctuary was filled to over flowing. Though I didn’t actually know how full it was until after the service. We filed in as a family, to fill all the front pews, and it did not occur to me to look behind us. Only as the service was ending did I think to wonder how many were there; so I kind of snuck back in, doubling back around after the family procession. I walked up the stairs to stand in the choir loft and peek at the crowd that was there. A crowd of souls who loved my PaCharley.
*Funny thing—the first time I wrote that sentence, I wrote “souls loved by my PaC.” Same difference, I suppose. Loved. Loved by.
GramBea selected the hymns we sang and, on impulse, I left my seat to go stand beside her and hold her hand. I suspect I learned how to sing from her, as I’ve always automatically found an alto harmony. From the other side of her, my uncle joined the trio, with a strong tenor.
Before I married, I was accustomed to visits to the U.S., during which I would stay with my grandparents. We would often sing the doxology as a blessing, in a three-part harmony.
Today we sang that three part harmony once again. Hands held tightly, voices strong; so far as I could tell—or cared, for that matter—we were alone in a packed sanctuary. Alone except for PaC, who I know for sure was singing right alongside us from his new, eternal home.

Like a river, glorious
Is God’s perfect peace,
Over all victorious
In its bright increase;
Perfect, yet it floweth
Fuller every day,
Perfect, yet it groweth
Deeper all the way.

Stayed upon Christ Jesus,
Hearts are fully blest;
Finding, as He promised,
Perfect peace and rest.

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One Response to “half-mast”

  1. Sally Upchurch said

    Thank you, Anna, for your beautiful words and for sharing your feelings. I am sorry that I could not be there with the family for Charley’s service today. I am sure it was a beautiful service and tribute to a wonderful man. Charley will, indeed, be missed by many.I will contact your Mom, Gary, and Bea and will come by in about two weeks when I return to Huntsville. Love to all of you,Sally (McClure) Upchurch

    Sent from Yahoo Mail for iPad

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