Tuesday, February 28, 2012

The Solidarity of Community

Alongside the pain of sudden loss come many friends and neighbors, each in his or her own way seeking to somehow make things better. Frank Stevens’ neighbors in Albuquerque were just that way—showering the Stevens family with love and support once the news got out about the horrible wreck.

Frank’s oldest brother, John Kelly, shared some of that scene in his letter home to their mother in Chicago. Writing to Agnes Tully Stevens only days after the funeral, he recounted several acts of generosity that impressed him.

Frank + Norma have the best friends + neighbors that any one any where could ever have. 

Even neighbors that didn’t know them except by sight were helping or offering help. One man who knew the kids but not Norma told Norma that if she needed any money to come to him; another neighbor who manages a Ford agency loaned us a new, nine passenger station wagon + fixed the brakes on Norma’s VW + wouldn’t take a penny. I don’t know what we would have done without his car for transportation.
It was a beautiful funeral – two priests on altar, children + nuns from school + the church was full. Frank had more friends than I ever thought possible – Spanish, Italian, you name it.

It seems almost an afterthought when John Kelly added the details of his brother’s burial. Perhaps it was owing to the sixty-mile-long drive from the church in Albuquerque to the National Cemetery in Santa Fe. He got it wrong about Santa Fe, though—the nation’s highest state capital is 7,199 feet above sea level, quite a change from John Kelly’s accustomed elevation in California of barely over 400 feet. No wonder it seemed like bitter cold.

Oh yes –
The grave side services were impressive – military funeral with a rifle salute + taps by the honor guard. Norma has a plot reserved right beside him.
They folded the flag + presented it to her.
It was bitterly cold, snow on the ground and a strong, raw wind blowing. Everyone shivered. Santa Fe is up around 3000 ft. I believe. There were very few flowers but lots of mass cards.

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