The official mourning crowds have passed
To the turn of sorrowful friends and family
Times when mums, dads and widows grasped
The treasures, hurts and pleasures in homily.
In city and town small private funerals abound
In all, more sad than all the past ever knew,
And one from all the rest in sadness crowned
A digger buried by largely an unknown few.
The parson’s words in death wholly encrypted.
The words of the eight mourners more telling,
Of soulless worlds where hope’s oft unscripted,
By searching lost souls in a battle unrelenting.
I spoke first, ‘It’s appropriate’, I uttered to the few,
‘I’m here because the smallness seemed to call me’.
In half truth the big man said, ‘I’m a stranger too’.
But with the Digger, he shared a similar silent key.
‘We’re pall-bearers’, said the spokesman for the four
Who’d lowered our digger to his final lonely rest.
The woman, who had seen worse of life before,
Whispered, ‘I was the closest to a girlfriend, at best.’
The young soldier, a polished and hardy veteran too,
Looking sad, verging on weeping, his face like a map
‘I promised my mate a massive funeral, true blue.
He’d merely smiled and coughed and whispered, “Crap”.
He was so brave, never complained nor groaned nor cried.
He smiled at me, muttered, “Rest at last” and quietly sighed.
His eyes closed, his breath rattled and he peacefully died.
I promised at his funeral I’d make a speech, I never lied.
I know I was the nearest he ever had to a true friend.
His mum died at birth, a dad known but unrecognised.
He had known the streets, a comfy home he’d pretend.
He met the army, he excelled and his home revised.
He had no i-pod, computer, photo or phone.
He had kept to himself as much as he could.
When with our patrol, no-one was ever alone,
He was trusted and reliable in our mate hood.
He would borrow my phone before his return,
To contact a woman at home. He’d book a date.
I’d ask of her importance, with feigned concern?
He’d wink and grin and say, “she’s only my mate”.
He said he never gave or was given anything.
Death gave him peace and me understanding.
He gave me hope, friendship and love of living.
But it’s true:
to no-one he gave nothing
but to everyone … his life. ‘
An epitaph earned, though in need of a rewrite,
Licence allowed our young veteran’s error stand.
I simply wished recognition of our terrible blight,
Of youthful life wasted, in another faraway land.