Arlington Cemetery history


So I dipped a toe into the topic of the avoidable, but didn’t delve into the flip-side, did I?

The young woman isn’t identified in the photo credits. Perhaps the photographer, Chip Somodevilla/Getty Images didn’t ask. It would take a ballsy person to stroll up to such a scene and play 20 questions though I imagine he’d have gotten chapter verse and the annotated notes if he had.The grave belongs to U.S. Marine Corps Lance Corporal Noah Pier. He was killed February 12, 2010 in Marja, Afghanistan and is resting at Arlington National Cemetery in Virginia, which is just outside the capital.

I’ve been there. It’s beautiful, belies its purpose and history. Arlington was the plantation home of Robert E. Lee’s wife. They abandoned it when he turned down Lincoln’s offer to head the Union Army, resigned his commission and went to serve the Confederacy. The mansion was built by George Washington’s grandson and the father of Lee’s wife, Anna.

The house was commandeered and used as a garrison and it was Union General Mieg’s idea to start burying dead soldiers there, partly as a rebuke to Lee. Mieg’s own son was among the first war dead interred there.

I wonder. Did he sleep on the left side of their bed? Is this the first restful nap she’s had in months? Were they married? Engaged?

Not that any of that matters but I bet she’d have told Chip if he asked.

I found the picture in my blog reader and then just after I found a post about John Cazale, the actor. You’d know him if you saw him. He only made five movies before he died of bone cancer in 1978, but all five were nominated for best picture at the Academy Awards, and he is cited by folks like Pacino, De Niro and Streep as being one of their great influences.

But that’s not why I found him interesting or mention him now.

Meryl Streep and John Cazale were engaged to be married when he died. She nursed him throughout his illness. She even took a minor part in The Deer Hunter, just to be with him and take care of him as he went about making his last movie.

She was with him when he died.

And then six months later, she was married.

Some people would find that shocking. Judge her even.

Yet, she’s been married for 31 years and has four children and by all accounts is very content, happy even.

She helped put together a documentary about Cazale and agreed to be interviewed. She is puffy-eyed and tearful at turns on the screen as she talks about him.

And yet …

I wonder about Noah Pier and this girl. On this most recent Memorial Day she is napping on his still fairly fresh grave, but where will she be mid-summer? Or fall? Or next year?

Losing people we love isn’t anymore avoidable than someday being “lost” ourselves. But it isn’t the end … of anything really.