Military honors services are short. So many funerals or inurnments are scheduled that there is only a half hour allotted. The family is invited to bring photos, music to play, to get up and speak, bring a minister to speak if they like. We invited Leif's family and friends to speak at both the military service and the church service later that afternoon.
Four of us spoke at the military service, Leif's father, Nikko, Donna, and I. I don't have a photo of Donna speaking but I was able to take one out of the small video of the ceremony. I don't have the complete text of everyone's remarks, but we were all crying as we spoke. It was very hard to get through, and hard to see each other trying. I kept my remarks short, as I planned my main message for the church service, my "Farewell to My Gentle Giant."
Here is my short farewell:
Leif loved his country, was passionate about our Constitution and Bill of Rights, and took seriously his oath to defend it. Whether in or out of uniform, being a soldier was an integral part of his identity, and now it will remain so, even in death. We honor his service and his patriotism, but we mourn his death with all our hearts.
This place not only memorializes his military service, but it lies close to his beloved sea coast.
Sara Teasdale wrote the poem, "If Death is Kind." To me it seems to fit his being laid to rest in this place.
Perhaps if death is kind, and there can be returning,
We will come back to earth some fragrant night,
And take these lanes to find the sea, and bending
Breathe the same honeysuckle, low and white.
We will come down at night to these resounding beaches
And the long gentle thunder of the sea,
Here for a single hour in the wide starlight
We shall be happy, for the dead are free.
I would like to think that Leif is free. I don't know whether anything remains after death but our memories, and those, I treasure. His 33 years were not long enough, but perhaps they were too long for him.
Leif loved the sea ever since he sailed the Caribbean when he was 16, and this is his favorite poem, Sea Fever by John Masefield.
I must down to the seas again, to the lonely sea and the sky,
And all I ask is a tall ship and a star to steer her by,
And the wheel's kick and the wind's song and the white sail's shaking,
And a grey mist on the sea's face, and a grey dawn breaking.
I must down to the seas again, for the call of the running tide
Is a wild call and a clear call that may not be denied;
And all I ask is a windy day with the white clouds flying,
And the flung spray and the blown spume, and the sea-gulls crying.
I must down to the seas again, to the vagrant gypsy life,
To the gull's way and the whale's way where the wind's like a whetted knife;
And all I ask is a merry yarn from a laughing fellow-rover
And quiet sleep and a sweet dream when the long trick's over.
Sweet dreams, my son.
Leif's father read some poignant poems and expressed his love and grief.
Donna wrote and read this:
Named after a viking need i say more. :)
He was strong,funny brilliant and kind.
Stubborn as a bull.
A true friend.
He held a fire for life and was passionate in love.
He fought for what he belived in even if it was something small.
A Knight. A soldier.
He would help you when you needed a good swift kick and teach you what you wanted to learn.
He held his friends close to his heart.
When he loved it was unconditional.
This man has warmed all of our hearts and changed all of our lives.
A powerful presence that will not be forgotten.
I love you Leif. Thank you for everything.
Nikko read this, which she had originally posted on her MySpace page:
On 14 April at 0500 hours Central European Time, I found out from my sister in Las Vegas that I lost one of the best friends I've had in my entire life. I never thought I would lose Leif, my ex-husband and eternal confidant and friend.
We'd met when I was 18, in Manhattan, KS, through the SCA - Society for Creative Anachronism. If you go to the rememberance page his mother Jerri set up for him at www.rememberingleif.blogspot.com, and you see the picture of him when he was a Senior in H.S., then you'll see the man I met. He was charming, funny, cynical with a dark sense of humor. He was arrogant, and hansome, and knew he was handsome.
When we married on 20 October, 1995, our friends thought I'd be the one to "take the wind out of his sails", and that I'd bring him & his ego down to earth with the rest of us mortals. I did a little, but he did so much more for me. He taught me how to laugh. He showed me that life wasn't as serious as I believed. He encouraged me, a H.S. drop-out, with the help of his wonderful mother, to get my G.E.D. He always believed in me, and even, over the years, when we were at the darkest hours of our marriage, we still loved each other.
Our marriage lasted only 7 legal years, but we ended it to save our friendship. We left behind the status of "man & wife" to retain our status of "long-time friend". He taught me how to see the big picture, and gave me a step towards becoming wise.
When I joined the Army in March 2003, I could feel his pride in me. He'd been Infantry, himself, and loved the Army and his Country the same way I do. I'll never forget the last time I saw him in December 2003 after Basic Training & AIT. It was the last time I got to hug him, to sit across from him and joke and drink and enjoy his physical company. The last moment I saw him, he was on his front porch, saying goodbye, and as I got into my car, he saluted me. I never felt prouder for what I had accomplished, and for what the future was going to bring. And I'd never had greater joy in my heart than I did when he showed me he felt the same. He continued to show me that support and pride through my career, and as I got promoted to Sergeant E-5, one rank higher than he'd retired out of the Army as. As life carried on over the years, we kept in touch over the phone, email & chat. He continued to share his humor, wisdom, and love with me and mine.
He never stopped being big brother to my 3 younger sisters, son to my mother, and confidant to me and our friends.
The world has lost someone truly great, in heart, soul and spirit.
The world has lost a Patriot, someone who couldn't possibly love his Country more.
The world has lost a lover of life, beauty, justice and everything the world had to offer.
Alex, I have a hole in my heart and life that will never be filled, no matter how hard I try with tears and memories.
I'm going to miss you for the rest of my life.
Love, your ex-wife and eternal friend. See you in the Summerland.