March 17, 2012.
The Magnolias Bloomed
The magnolias bloomed the day Alex was buried.
Their pink buds slowly opened, revealing their fleshy innards.
Crocuses were peeking out of the ground.
Hyacinths finally broke through the earth, spreading their perfume.
Yet, in spite of these signs of Spring, it was a grey day.
Fitting for a funeral.
People lined the aisles of the Roman Catholic church in Forest Hills.
Military guards accompanied the flag-draped coffin down the aisle.
Alex’s grieving widow, draped in black, followed, escorted by her brother and close family.
After stopping at the baptismal, the coffin made its way to the alter.
There, a shroud replaced the flag.
A special service was held.
The priest spoke as did close relatives and colleagues.
Alex was born in Bulgaria.
I learned that day that he had watched his father being tortured by the Communists after they had taken over Bulgaria.
For the rest of his life, Alex would hate the Communists, the Socialists, the Left.
He would be adamantly against liberals, welfare and handouts.
Hard work, perseverance, individual initiative, free enterprise would be his mantra.
That is how he had made his way in the world and in this country.
This is not to say that Alex did not care about people.
He studied medicine in Greece and came to the USA to become a doctor.
A radiologist, Alex loved the hospital where he worked as well as his colleagues.
He cared deeply for his wife, his patients and his friends.
He was always there for them.
Story after story was told that funereal day about his helping friends in time of need.
You knew you could always count on him.
People took Holy Communion.
The service had ended.
Slowly, the coffin exited the church and made its way to the cemetery.
On a sloping hill in a beautiful cemetery in Kew Gardens, Alex’s flag-draped coffin came to rest.
Rose petals were strewn around the gravesite, rescapees from the beautiful bouquets.
Breaking the silence, taps were played.
The skies grew greyer.
Soft silent raindrops slowly fell from the sky.
It was almost as though the heavens were weeping.
Black umbrellas slowly unfurled sheltering the mourners.
The flag was meticulously folded and handed over to the widow.
The priest read his prayers and benedictions and offered comforting words to the grieving widow.
Family and friends lay red flowers on the casket, bidding a last farewell.
The funeral was over.
Thank you Alex. For being a true friend, doctor, colleague, husband and American.
Thank you for having a sly, cutting sense of humor. For always having a kind word to say. Or timely well thought out advice.
Gone. But not forgotten.