Ver·klempt´ – adj. To be overcome with emotion; extremely emotional.
Maybe it is a sign of getting older, or maybe it is just hormones, but I am finding that more and more things affect me in ways I did not foresee. On the first day of school, I watched the 3-yr-old climb (literally, climb because they are so big) up the steps of the school bus and head to his new preschool. My best friend asked me if I was OK, or did she need me to come over and give me a shoulder to cry on. I told her I was fine, and I was. To me, watching my child go off to school is no big deal. I am excited for him and the adventures he will have there, but there are other things that have me totally bewildered. And the ironic thing is that most of them are things that don’t even directly affect me personally, it is just the situations that get me all choked up.
There are some that I have come to expect. Movies with tragic stories fall into this category. You know the kind – the ones where, when you ask someone if they liked the movie, they say, “I cried during the movie, but it was a good cry.” I am not really sure what that means, but if I am planning on seeing one of these, I make sure I have some tissues along. I also have difficulty when I hear about harm coming to a child, but not just any harm. When I read the paper and there is a story about a parent or other caregiver who did something to injure or kill a child, I don’t get upset, per se, I get angry. There is no Hell good enough for those people who would willingly injure a child. No, it is the stories of children dying from a dreadful cancer they couldn’t overcome or being hit by a car while playing that get to me. Those “There-but-for-the-Grace-of-God-go-I” situations hit me right in the gut.
More recently, I have found myself getting worked up over those things related to pride and patriotism. Now don’t get me wrong, I am very proud of who I am and where I come from, but I never considered myself a Flag-Waving, G0d-and-Country kind of girl. However, things are beginning to change. Things like the singing of our national anthem. I have heard this song and sung this song thousands of times in my lifetime, but nowadays I find it difficult to get all the way through the song without a catch somewhere. I choked back the tears when I saw workers in New Orleans rebuilding after the devastation of Katrina. I held my breath while the waters climbed the banks in Nashville and prayed for the kids from our church who went to the scene three weeks after the floods receded. And I have cried outright when seeing troop-related coverage on TV and in person.
The most recent event that caught me off-guard occurred this morning. For the past several days, the local paper and news media have been covering the story of a local man who joined the Marines and was killed in Afghanistan. Several friends on Facebook had posted comments related to honoring fallen heroes, but most were the generic sort of messages you see at times like this. This soldier returned home earlier this week, and his funeral was this morning. Until 10 days ago, I had never heard of this man. I never met him or his family. To the best of my knowledge, our paths never crossed. I did not attend his visitation and was at work this morning during the funeral. I had read the stories in the paper and looked at the pictures, but none of it meant much to me until I was at work this morning and saw the fire department blocking off our road at the corner. I was a little confused, until I realized that the funeral procession to the cemetery was about to pass by. The procession was amazing. I can’t remember ever seeing anything like it. It was led by two motorcycle officers, followed by a contingent of police, fire, and sheriff’s department vehicles, all with lights flashing. Next came the motorcycles – 40 or 50 riders on a variety of bikes, some single riders, some with passengers behind, a few flying large American flags off their back bumpers. The hearse, the limos, and the throng of assembled friends and family followed. Trucks and cars with flags. SUVs with farewell messages written on the windows. It took a full 20 minutes for the entire parade to pass by.
As the procession was approaching our building, I was right in the middle of helping one of our customers. As the cars went by, time seemed to stop. I lost all track of what I was doing, and found myself staring, with one hand over my open mouth, while tears flowed silently and unceasingly down my face. I stood there, watching, and was completely unaware of anything around me. Nothing seemed to exist except this solemn, quiet parade passing by. Slowly, I started to regain my sense of place and become aware of my surroundings. I have no idea what the woman I was helping was thinking, but she seemed rather put out that she would not be able to jump in her car and drive away, as all the roads were blocked off. I was appalled as I overheard another customer make a comment to the effect that if someone was stupid enough to join the military, they deserved whatever they got. Right then, my sorrow turned to anger, and I just wanted to scream. For the life of me, I could not wrap my head around how this person could be so callous as to not be affected by the devastation that this young man’s death had caused those who loved him. I realized then how lucky I am, not only to live in a place where a young man would voluntarily sacrifice his life for his country, but also to not be so jaded that I am unable to appreciate that sacrifice.
Rest in peace, RJ. You did good.