Regular readers of the blog will remember when Rebekah Sanderlin’s daughter Rudi was born while her husband was deployed. Rebekah sent me this link from the LA Times that a friend of hers wrote about the issue of showing caskets from Dover.
There was a time when I would have fought the ugly fight for the right to show those photos but I have to tell you after my buddy Gordon died and someone took photos at Arlington and sent me copies of them you did not see those photos posted here for a reason. I just felt they were far too personal. I appreciate that my friend took them and shared them with me since I could not be at the Arlington ceremony but I did not think it appropriate to share them with you, even though I know that many of you have come to care about Gordon thorough the stories I’ve shared with you about our friendship. I’m touched that you care so much. I know that your concern is sincere. But I just felt that it would be a violation to share those photos.
I believe it is the Hopi Indians who abhor photos because they think they rob a person of their spirit. I’m not of that belief but I do think that when it comes to military families and their grief that most of the civilian population is so out of touch about what happens to these families in the wake of that death that it seems somewhat vouyeristic on their behalf that they would insist upon the release of those photos.
I have photos of my own father in his flag-draped coffin. Large 8×10 photos of it. The coffin is open. The photo was taken as Dad lay in state. When I wrote my memoir I studied that picture like a journalist. Looking for every telling detail so I could describe it to the readers. So that they would see what I saw as a young girl, and maybe understand in some small way the grief I felt.
Now I know that such an effort was in vain.
Someone who didn’t know my father the way I knew him can look at that photo straight on and forget about it five minutes later, whereas, that image of him is forever seared in my memory, even if I’d never seen the photo.
It’s what that Indians have always said, you can’t know another man’s path until you’ve walked a mile in his boots. Or his daughter’s flip-flops.