On 16 March 2010 my Dad, Robert D. Butler Sr., passed away. He was 78 years old and had served in the military for 22 years. He was in the Korean War and the Vietnam War. My Dad was very comfortable with the military and was very successful and had many accomplishments.

When he passed away, my Mom made sure he got the Military casket with the flags on the sides and had a military burial with the gun ceremony. When you grow up in a military family (because if one is in the military, pretty much all of you are.. you are at the beck and call of the US service and you move where and when they say) there are some ceremonies that you become accustomed to, flag raising ceremony, brass band concerts, presenting of the colors, taps and so forth. Those events breed familiarity. Wherever you go in the US and you observe or participate in one of these events, it feels like home.

I knew that one day he would have a military burial. It wasn’t at a military cemetery, we have a family cemetery in Florida… almost in Georgia. It’s at the old “Butler” place that’s been in my dads family for over 100 years.

When we arrived I saw the casket draped in the American Flag.The flag has become a symbol for me in a personal way. Yes it does represent this country and the battles (good and bad) but it was something my Dad revered. My dad was a very patriotic person. The flag was also at the center of so many ceremonies that I had participated in. It’s as though all these flag ceremonies that I had watched and participated in were setting me up for this moment.

At the beginning of the ceremony, a lone bugle played taps and 2 men in full military dress folded the flag and then there was a gun salute. My mother was presented the flag and the presenter thanked my Mom for my Dad’s years of service and then presented her with 3 shells from the gun salute.

There is such finality in that ceremony. That meant the end. It was the last ceremony my Dad would ever be a part of and I don’t think I would have felt the closure I do without that ceremony.

My husband, Christian, delivered a wonderful eulogy and talked about my Dad’s life and legacy. He did a wonderful job but there is no way to sum up the life of a person in such few words. Each person sits at the funeral and thinks about their life with the person deceased and they process the whole life of the person.  Nothing he said would have brought closure like the flag ceremony did.

For some, the military can be a controversial issue. There are some that feel it breeds force and violence. There are some who do not care to be part of anything military but the life of the person celebrated who served in the military deserves a final ceremony.

Funerals are not for the dead but for the living. They are to celebrate the life of the person who has passed away and an opportunity for those left behind to mourn and release. Most of all, the funeral is to bring some finality and closure to the living. They are not confrontational, they are not for arguments or drama, they are not for revealing hidden information; they are simply meant to end the last chapter of the persons life and create a place of grieving and celebration for those lives that were affected.

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