Sunday, October 13, 2013

Full Military Honours

This past Friday, Mom and I attended the memorial service for my friend and co-worker Ed Jarose.  While I have known OF Ed for years, I only met him this past spring while he was hospitalized here in The Woodlands for treatment of the illness that ultimately took his life.  Ed suffered from myositis, a condition which affects the muscular system, similar to ALS.  It incapacitated him, immobilized him and slowly, inexorably shut down his body's autonomic systems.  All the while, Ed was alert, aware, engaged.  He continued to be Ed.

Although I hadn't met Ed before last spring, his life-partner Gerry Aubert and I have been friends for years.  Since we are near one another in seniority at our airline-employer, we've often flown trips together.  It was through speaking with Gerry that I learned Ed was "marooned" in the medical system, being bounced from hospital to rehab and back again, due to his condition.  Since my job affords me significant free time, I thought I would visit Ed to help him pass the time away from home.  That decision was a seminal event in my life.  (I have written here previously of my visits with Ed.)

Perhaps I visited with Ed a half-dozen times for a grand total of 2-3 hours.  I really can't say.  But the man I came to know was so warm and engaging, so welcoming and happy, so full of life, that it almost seems we were lifelong friends.  His circumstances when we met were so grave, yet he never lost his "spark" for life.  So, when I learned of his passing, I knew that I wanted to be present to help honour and celebrate his life, a life well-lived and tenaciously cherished.

Mom and I returned from closing the cottage in Maine just in time to attend the service on October 11th.  In a warm space full of friends and family, beautiful flowers surrounded Ed's portrait and the triangularly-folded American flag.  "Doesn't such a flag denote military service?", I thought at the outset.

Conversations quieted as Gerry entered the room with a priest to begin the service.  Comforting readings from the gospel, an inspired and TRULY INSPIRING voice raised in song, testimonials of those whose entire lives had been touched by the magic of Ed Jarose:  these events led to, what was for me, an unexpected catharsis in the proceedings.  The room was hushed, all was still, in a moment of contemplation and reflection.

Then, from the rear, an immaculately uniformed Army sergeant solemnly, silently proceeded up the aisle toward Ed's portrait and our flag.  He stopped there, turned full-face to Ed's portrait, came to attention, and saluted our fallen friend.  From the rear of the chapel, a comrade-at-arms blew the sweetest, most perfect rendition of "Taps" that I've ever heard.  Within the confines of a room that might hold 200 people, it was a powerful, evocative few moments.  Once "Taps" was complete, the bugler, also a sergeant, proceeded up the aisle to meet his colleague and to "present the colors".  Methodical, precise, solemn, moving...the ceremony of it all was to honour the memory of our Ed, a fallen comrade.  I was nearly breathless as they folded, checked, and double-checked the perfection of the triangle formed by our nation's banner in preparation for its presentation to the family.  The sergeant turned, solemnly positioned himself to face Gerry in the front row and knelt:  "This flag is presented on behalf of a grateful nation and the United States Army as a token of appreciation for your loved one's honorable and faithful service."

"Full Military Honours":  I have known of this ceremony honouring veterans for most of my life.  I have witnessed it a few times personally.  But NEVER have I felt the poignancy, the immediacy, the meaning more acutely than on this day.  In presenting the flag to Gerry, my nation, my people recognize the legitimacy of the commitment between Gerry and Ed.  An institution which has traditionally held my life and so many others like it in contempt, bent a knee and paid tribute to the loss of a comrade, a noble soul, a MAN, just like any other!

And I have NEVER been more proud to be an American than in that moment.

Ed's earthly path ended on October 3rd.  I have excerpted his obituary here:

"Edward Jarose Jr, was the only son of Edward Jarose Sr. and Elizabeth (Betty) born on December 16, 1951 in St. Mary's Hospital in Passaic, N.J. Ed lived in Passaic Park, N.J. for most of his life. His formative years were good; as he grew up in a large family with grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, along with a great many friends. When he was quite young, he showed an aptitude for dance, and his Mother enrolled him in dancing school. He soon found another family there with the whole dance community at Niki Simon's School of Dance in Passaic Park and eventually went on to teach dancing there. Ed was a very creative person, who loved to bring beauty and fun into anything and everything he did. He graduated from Passaic High School in June, 1972, and was drafted into the Army. After serving 2 years he returned home where he enrolled in Capri Institute of Beauty and became a hairdresser. He started working and eventually became the salon manager at J.C Penny's salon at the Willowbrook Mall in Wayne, N.J. He then formed a partnership with his Aunt Maria Cappiello in November, 1985 and opened up Salon 88 a full service beauty salon in Elmwood Park, N.J. In 1986, they opened a second full service Salon in Garfield N.J. –which they continued to work in for the next 4 years, before he moved on to become a Trainer for Revlon- covering the entire East Coast, including the Carribean. Eventually through his travel & adventure, he met the love of his life, Gerard (Gerry) Aubert, who encouraged him to become a flight attendant. He entered training at Continental Airlines, and began working as a flight attendant on Aug. 9, 1990 working there until 2003. Ed loved to decorate, entertain and cook. He was his happiest surrounded by his pets, friends and family. Although these last few years have been difficult for him due to his frail health, he still enjoyed having his pets surround him, and having friends and family visit him. He was especially close to his cousin, Cassie Cappiello. He treated her like the daughter he never had, taking her on trips to Florida, Hawaii & Las Vegas, and was thrilled when she came to Houston to stay with him when she entered college. He will be dearly missed by all of his flight attendant friends who became his second family. The Cappiello family will miss him very much, as they grew up together, and very close every since he was a child. And last but not least his partner Gerry for the last 25 years, will miss him dearly. He took excellent care of Ed throughout his illness – arranging for him to have the best care possible. If it wasn't for Gerry's outstanding dedication and care, Ed would have left us a lot sooner. There are no words to describe the care and love Gerry gave to Ed. I know God will reserve a special place in Heaven for him. We are all sad to have him leave us, but know God had a better plan for him and he is now in a better place – reunited with his mother, grandparents and assorted pets that preceded him."

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