The generation in the family who knew and loved George directly is quickly passing. His entire immediate family is gone: his parents and all three sisters. Of the next generation, only Caron, born in 1940, knew him and felt the warmth of his embrace. When she thinks back to those hazy, long-ago memories, her eyes fill with tears. And those who came soon after, but too late to know him directly -- my cousins Jack and George, my brother Mike and me-- all of us born between 1945 and 1948 -- grew up feeling a bit of the grief our grandparents and parents felt, the void he left in the family, the heartbreak of the loss of this very special -- and very typical -- young man.
George Taylor, Kathy McCoy, and Jack Hill
and peers - Memorial Day, Toronto, Kansas - 2007
Leslie Sherman and me, Memorial Day, 2007 at
Toronto, Kansas cemetery where Uncle George is buried.
One of the Honor Guard, Leslie Sherman, was George's first cousin, at the cemetery that day with his daughter Candace, one of my favorite relatives. He told me that he also had been Uncle George's college roommate and felt his loss in so many ways, on so many occasions throughout his long life. As they do every Memorial Day, Leslie and Candace had already decorated the grave that Uncle George now shares with his parents.
Seeing Leslie with Candace, I thought of all the life experiences that George Walter had missed: the church-going girlfriend who just might have become his wife, the cherished children, the farm lovingly tended, the blessing of growing old close to the land and to the people he loved most. I thought how such a vibrant young life had been snuffed out in a minute, one of the many millions of precious lives lost in World War II and in all the wars to follow.
And I thought of the extension of grief, of missing him and loving him from one generation to another and then another. And we, who loved him but never knew him, bowed our heads in silent prayer as a soft, warm breeze blew and a bugler played taps in the distance.