By Barb Arland-Fye
Memorial Day was sunny, breezy and teased of summer. I wanted to absorb its beauty and gentleness with every pore of my being.
God’s presence seemed ever so close as I joined 200 or so other people for Memorial Day Mass in Mount Calvary Cemetery in Davenport. It was one of those days we couldn’t help but reflect on loved ones who are gone, and we wished they could have savored this precious time with us.
Knights of Columbus, Loras Council 532, organized the outdoor Mass atop the hill in the Priests’ Circle. Bishop Martin Amos presided, several priests of the Davenport Diocese concelebrated and two deacons assisted. Boy Scouts presented the colors; Dr. Joe Seng, a veterinarian and Iowa state senator, played the keyboard and was accompanied by other musicians. Twelve-year-old Alec Schauer, who just finished the sixth grade at St. Paul the Apostle School in Davenport, played “Amazing Grace” on the bagpipes. Photographs of Medal of Honor winners lined the hedges of the outdoor sanctuary. The names of priests and Knights of Columbus who have died in the past year were read after Communion.
I asked others after Mass who they were thinking about on this pleasant Memorial Day.
“I’m thinking about all the priests and the KC members who’ve died and the veterans who died for our peace,” said KC Lorne Mayer of Loras Council 532. He was also thinking about the beauty of the outdoor Mass and the blessing of having Bishop Amos lead the liturgy. Lorne appreciated the bishop’s homily, which focused on the Civil War origins of “Taps,” a military bugle call that is sounded at funerals, wreath-laying and memorial services. Dr. Seng played Taps at the end of Mass.
Wiley and Heidi Plummer were remembering their son Randy, who died in December 2009; Heidi’s parents, Bill and Gisela Eaton; and Msgr. Leo Feeney, who died Oct. 6, 2008, while serving as pastor of Our Lady of the River Parish in LeClaire, where the Plummers are parishioners.
Mary Rourke of Davenport said she talked with her younger sister about Memorial Day and the fact that four of their uncles served in World War II. Because of their efforts and those of countless others, “we have liberty and live in the best country in the world,” Mary told her sister.
Maureen Schebler was remembering her uncle, John Slattery, who served aboard the USS Maryland in Pearl Harbor when the Japanese attacked Dec. 7, 1941. Her uncle, who survived the attack, had been contemplating attending Mass aboard the ill-fated USS Arizona that morning, but changed his mind. Maureen’s husband, Jim, said his thoughts were focused on thanking God for a beautiful day.
Retired Major Tom Quinlan Jr. said he was thinking about relatives and friends who served in the various wars and conflicts. He is a Vietnam veteran who was wounded in the war and has a nephew now serving in the Air Force. Tom prays for his nephew’s safety.
And I’m thinking about my Uncle Tom, my dad’s oldest brother who returned to a hero’s welcome after being rescued at sea during World War II. He returned to service only to be lost at sea in the Pacific. As a child, I dreamed Tom would be rescued from some remote island. Today, I’m praying he’s at peace in heaven with my grandparents.
A phrase from Taps, which concluded Bishop Amos’ homily, is “God is nigh.” Those words are as precious to me as the fleeting beauty of a picture-perfect Memorial Day.