Mielke: Saying goodbye is never easy

I’m not sure what I’m going to do tonight.

It’s Friday and as soon as the hands of the clock, now dutifully moved-back one-hour, reach quitting time, I get to take my working girl self out the door.

I should be so happy.

But, weirdly enough, I only feel something so close to sadness, I guess that must be what it is.

Sadness!

For the last three years, almost without fail, I have turned my wheels east instead of west, which is actually the direction in which I live, with one purpose in mind.

I had to go see this guy.

But, one night when he was there all alone, in the nursing home, in a room crammed with military awards and accolades and a large framed picture of our mother, he quietly stepped over the threshold of this world into the next.

It was his time. And it was, no doubt, a blessing to be released from the bondage of illness and suffering and silence.

Last Tuesday I attended his funeral. It was a military funeral and it was a most fitting farewell, indeed.

“I liked the bagpipes,” my nephew whispered to me. “I think Horace would have, too.”

I nod in agreement.

The padre who conducted the service talked in glowing terms about the man we had come to honour. He spoke of medals won and battles fought.

The congregation listened in respectful silence and blood, red poppies bloomed in silent homage on everyone’s lapel.

At the end of the service, veterans, proud and straight, saluted smartly and repeated the words, ‘farewell, comrade.”

And as I heard their words, I closed my eyes and slowly my mind drifted back to another place and time that I could only imagine.

And as the aged veterans disappeared, I saw in their place a group of young men, laughing and confident.

My brother was there. His eyes, the clear bright blue eyes of his dad and his proud Scottish heritage, shone with life and vitality. He was tall and slim and his dark, wavy hair was mostly hidden by his jaunty soldier’s cap.

He wore his good looks and his uniform with easy pride and he had this unforgettable smile that lit up the room.

I come back to the present.

“Farewell, comrade,” his friends say. I feel tears prick my eyelids and slowly I open my eyes and there they are, aged veterans come to say goodbye to yet another friend who has crossed over no man’s land before them.

It’s not easy, saying goodbye. It’s not easy knowing that for everything there is a season and a time for everything under the sun and nothing will ever change that.

But, it’s so good to have the memories.

I will miss him though, and those Friday nights when I knew what I had to do.

I had to go see this guy!

I had to go see my brother.

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