Wednesday, March 27, 2013

The Chaplain I Finally Got to Thank (and His Wife, Too)

I posted the following note the other night to the blog of the wife of the Navy chaplain who officiated at my father's funeral. I "found" him because his wife had linked to a couple of my Flickr photos. This is the officer right here:

and here is the URL to the photo:

Dear Ms. Bush,
See Liza Bush's blog here:
I was checking my Flickr links to see who might have dropped by and I noticed that you had linked a photo of your chaplain husband to Pinterest. Of course I always love it when someone links to one of my photos. This one was all the more appreciated because it was of your husband, apparently the frame where he was saying the final commendation at the niche at Arlington now holding the ashes of my father (and, someday, my mother).
How providential God is, acting in his own time, to give me a forum, your blog, on which I can thank Chaplain Bush for his important role in one of the most memorable occasions in my and my family's like: the funeral for my father.
Even as we returned home I had it in mind that I was going to write a thank-you note to the chaplain for the comfort and courage, and even joy, that he gave us. But somewhere along the way his card got waylaid and my internet searches were for naught. I don't want to bore you, but a couple of things I'd like to say about my dad (my hero's) funeral and your husband's role in it.

1) I knew we would get a dignified funeral, which my father would have countenanced, but we did not get the bland funeral that I also expected. From your blog (to which I have subscribed) I have learned that Chaplain Bush has done as many as six funerals a day, a thousand in a year. With numbers like that, I am even more moved by the personal touch he delivered. He did a good job putting together a picture of a man he will never meet this side of the paraousia, but he also managed to put together a sermon of substance, easily understood, that wove the importance of my father's vocation and of his "coming home" to Arlington to become part of our nation's collective memory, as well as the truth of the gospel that is proclaimed for us all, needed by all, from my father strong and true to those of us who were assembled that day to say goodbye to him.

My father never appreciated namby-pamby (he was a Marine officer); he would have "approved" of (and, more importantly, he would have heard) what your husband had to say.

To put it another way, please thank the chaplain on my behalf for the straight Jesus talk.

(I said this would not be long; I guess I lied.)

2. For all the years my father was an active-duty Marine (27), for all of the men with whom he served (thousands), many or most of whom now also are dead, I had never been to a military funeral. And neither a Marine funeral at that. Set aside the overwhelming emotion I was still feeling after a year without my dad, I still was blown away by the blessed perfection with which everyone performed the job of honoring my father -- and God. Now I know why a liturgics professor at a seminary in Northern Virginia used to send his students to Arlington to see a proper military burial in all of its flawless, practiced dignity: This was truly worship of God, with great thanks given to him as we received great comfort from him. I am grateful to Chaplain Bush for pointing out very clearly why an Arlington burial is so important to the nation (as well as to the families) and how there can be so much life there.

My father's funeral was as good as (or better than) any of the liturgical acts I've seen or participated in. The meaning of all that was done was clear; nothing was superfluous.

Please relay to your husband my thanks for all the work he did when he was at Arlington. I don't think I thanked him enough. He professionally took his leave on that sweltering June 14, 2010, and sped off to change his uniform and go to the next funeral.

Perfection and the personal touch take a lot of practice; I could tell that he and the Marines there that day had made the best of all there practice. Thanks again. Sorry for the length. And my best to you both as you take up your new post at Camp Lejeune. (July and August in D.C. will have prepared you well for summertime down there.)

All best,

John Hudson,

Troutville, Va.

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