The funeral was the most terrible and magnificent one I've ever witnessed. Jethro and I and our friend, Mason clung to each other and sobbed as taps played.
I had never been to a military funeral before. You know what they do, as we've seen it parodied a million times, but seeing it for one of your dearest friends brings a whole new dimension of beautiful pain and overwhelms you with the magnitude of his sacrifice.
I choked out, "Goodbye, Charles" at the casket and that was about all I could handle. Jethro, Mason, and I went to our cars to take a few swigs.
Liquor and sympathy have been about all that's gotten me through the past week.
I must say though, that in our grief, all of our friends have come back together. Petty differences and real hurts have been set aside and forgotten. I made amends with my former best friend and Jethro's ex-girlfriend (Micky) after an 8 year grudge. I loved her through all of it, and regretted our lost friendship, but was far too stubborn and prideful to reconcile. I emailed her on Tuesday evening asking her to forgive my part in our fight and asking for us to be good again. She emailed me back a beautiful response and asked to meet the following day at a mutual friend's house.
As I walked in the door and saw her, we ran to each other and hugged tightly and cried. We talked for hours. I found out Charles was the last guy she hooked up with before she settled down with her husband. I told her I once made-out with Charles and Jethro in the same evening. She said that had her beat.
Saturday evening after the funeral, we and all our friends went to Griff's Tavern to celebrate his life. Jethro and I and our friend Benton had gone to Kinkos and had a picture of Charles blown up and framed. We set it up on the back patio and prepared to settle in for a night of toasts.
As we were lighting the candles around it, two young men came out and asked if this was a private party or if they could come hang out also. You know those awkward moments when you don't quite know what to say? It wasn't technically a private party, but we didn't want them to feel embarrassed when they realized why we were all gathered. Somehow I managed to say the right thing. I said, "If you want to come have a drink to our friend who lost his life in Afghanistan, you are more than welcome to stay out here with us."
The young men also did the right thing. They fell silent and walked over to his picture. After a respectful moment, one of them said they'd both be honored to drink to him.
And that was how Charles would have wanted it. Everybody drinking.
Micky and I made sure to tell those guys how Charles was with the ladies. I don't think there was a chick in the bar he hadn't snogged at some point. They were impressed.
Jethro and I spend a quiet day yesterday and I finally stopped breathing out steaming clouds of whisky.
I don't think I will have closure until this war is ended and we have won, but I feel a sense of calm and kindliness towards everyone I know. Everyone from the internet to real life has been tremendously supportive and kind. And I want to thank everyone for their lovely messages and Jack, Dick and Trashman, and Tinyhands for their phone calls. They seriously kept us going over the past week.