A Five-Straw Salute

As the son and son-in-law of men who served in one of the branches of our nation’s armed forces, I remember well the twenty-one-gun salute that took place at the committal service for each of them. As a preacher, I have been with countless families as one of their loved ones is laid to rest in this manner. 

That salute and the playing of “Taps” that follows is a very emotional time. I cannot remember a time when tears were not shed because a very special person was remembered in a very special way.

I did not serve in the military.  Although I was at the “prime age” to be involved in the “conflict” in Vietnam, the military decided that they did not want a guy who had torn a knee up in a high school football game.

I was thinking the other day about an appropriate “salute” when it comes time for my graveside service. I think I have an idea.

You see, I’ve taught each of our five grandchildren the fine art of tearing the end off of the paper or plastic that restaurants normally use to put straws in. Once the end is torn off, you can merely remove the rest of the paper or plastic and use the straw. That’s the way boring people do it. 

The grandkids and I have our own way of doing this. It is a lot more fun. You can put the exposed straw into your mouth and “shoot” the remaining paper off. It is even more fun if you can hit an unsuspecting target (hopefully at your own table). 

Grammy may roll her eyes and parents may shake their heads, but Grampy and the grandkids get a kick out of this. At least most of the grandkids do. I think that our sixteen-year-old may be getting a little too “sophisticated” for this, but he’ll get over that someday.

I can see it now! After all of the right words have been said at the cemetery, the straws come out and Grampy gets a five-straw salute! Maybe, instead of tears, Grampy will make the grandkids smile one more time. 

It may not seem like it, but I am actually discussing something serious here. I never really knew my grandparents. Three of them had already passed from this life before I was born and I only saw my maternal grandfather a few times. He passed away when I was very young.

I have no memories of any of my grandparents. I don’t what they sounded like. I don’t what kind of (if any) sense of humor they had. I don’t know what their likes and dislikes were. I don’t know what is like to remember stories told by a grandparent. I’m not even sure where two of them are buried.

The Lord has allowed me to spend time with my grandchildren and to establish a relationship with them. Nobody knows how special that is to me. Nobody knows how much I wish I could spend more time with each of them. Nobody knows how often I think of them and pray for them.

Both of our children and their families live some distance from us. It takes some effort to be able to spend time together. I value any time we can work all of that out.

Those times are not merely a time for fun and foolishness. The fun and foolishness are just a part of a much bigger picture. Those times, along with the serious times, the sad times, and many other types of times are important opportunities. They are opportunities to do what my mother-in-law used to say we were doing when she was with us and our children. I can still hear “Grandma Ruthie” saying, “We’re making memories, aren’t we?”

That statement sums up a lot of what I think families are all about. Families make memories. Families establish legacies and carry them on. 

You and your family have your own traditions. You have your own “inside jokes.” You may even have your own weird uncle or goofy Grampy. Your family may not shoot straws in a restaurant, but you do something that people who are not a part of your family do not understand and can never really be a part of.

Your family (like mine) is unique. There is not another family anywhere exactly like yours. 

Do what you can to let each member know how special he or she is to you. There aren’t many investments you can make that would be better than to invest time making memories with your family. 

Who knows? You may be repaid with your own special salute someday!

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AUTHOR: Jim Faughn




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