December 15, 2017

Another Homecoming – Final Post (A Tribute)

Another homecoming – final post is the tribute of my heart to my oldest brother who departed this earthly sphere in 2008.

It’s never easy to lose a loved in your life, yet we know too that the cycle of living and dying human beings continues in its inevitable circuit whether we want it to or not. Such is the destiny of the races of humanity, and we each have to find our own way of responding to and recovering from the dying side of that equation.

My oldest brother John was one who met up with that dying side some years ago, and as part of his preparations for it asked that I write him some words to be shared with family and friends at the final services that would be held for him.

I was honored by his request and could do no less than give him and his memory my best. I share it with you now as a tribute written to honor the man who asked it of me.

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For those of you who don’t know me, my name is Ken Matthies, retired Canadian Forces Northern Ranger. I’m also John’s youngest brother, come down from the Yukon Territory to love, honor and pay tribute to him in my own special way at his passing. I have a story about John to share with you today – and it begins like this…

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It’s the dark of night as only a southern Fraser Valley dark can be, laced with nothing but shimmering starlight as mom and I walk along the gravel road a short distance from our home, towards the black silhouette of the little United Church nestled on the edge of hill ahead of us. A curve of the old Trans Canada Highway meets this road just beyond it, and there’s a Greyhound bus stop there we’re moving purposefully toward.

Anticipation and joy is bubbling its own merry mixture in both of our hearts as our feet hustle us forward. We’re both caught in the throes of rampant anticipation, and my own 7-year-old emotions are barely held in check as I strain at the bit to contain them.

Suddenly another black silhouette appears in the starlight at the top of the hill before us, but this one is moving and carries a military bearing to the style of its movements. We’ve been eagerly awaiting this shadow’s appearance – a son and big brother finally arriving home on leave from the Royal Canadian Air Force. He’s been sorely missed during his absence.

As my eyes comprehend what I’m seeing I joyously shout out my big brother’s name and start running flat out to meet him, becoming another sudden and swiftly moving shadow with him as he hears his name called out and races forward to meet us, his bags thumping and pumping along at his side.

And then those bags are dropped from hands and arms reaching out to catch and embrace the leaping form of a little brother who hurls himself into his arms, who hugs and squeezes and babbles in joy to the man he’s missed more than life itself, it seems.

A joyous homecoming brought to life by a special bond of love formed years before in the hearts of each – the oldest and the youngest boys in our family – expressed now in a single precious moment of time destined never to be forgotten by either one.

Mom makes it there too, almost as swiftly as I did, with love and pride beaming waves of light and energy to cut the dark of night, and she too is wrapped in an embrace that encompasses us all – and we are once again complete in our triad of shared family love.

Leading Aircraftman John Matthies has arrived home.

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What you’ve just heard is a true story taken from John’s life – and mine , as the youngest brother who shouted his name in joy that night fifty three years ago. But my story isn’t quite done yet, because back last October in one of our conversations by phone about his impending death, John asked two things of me – one, that I would be here at his funeral – and two, that as the writer and poet in our family, that I would write him a poem and share it with all of you here today as we say our final farewells to his physical presence among us. I’ve been blessed and honored to able to meet both of those requests – and to honor him in one other way he didn’t request, but which I give him freely as one former serving military man to another. I stand before you in the uniform of my own military service, honored beyond words to wear it for my big brother who showed me the value of that service by his example, Leading Aircraftman John Matthies.

The title and theme of the poem I’ve written for him at his request are spun in great measure from the story I just shared with you, and from John’s former service in the Canadian military.

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Another Homecoming – Final Post

These simple words of a story, written from the heart of a boy, Are shared with you today in all their undiluted joy; Spun from the memories of childhood, and a golden moment on earth, I give them to you in honor, of a brother gone on to rebirth.

Many are the memories, which flow through us all today, as we gaze upon this man, and remember him each in our way. His family bound with their sorrow, expressed now in tears and pain, As we struggle and weep and wave goodbye, to Johns’ quickly departing train.

I can see his spirit running in heaven, his baggage released in joy, As though it was his earthly form when I leapt to his arms as a boy; Another joyous homecoming, now with angels and song and dance, As we revere these final moments, and treasure his final glance.

Our parents are there to greet John, and enfold him in loving embrace, His children gone before him too, shining and radiant of face; He’s bathed in the brilliance of heavenly form, and wrapped in the stars of night, Forever before us as we gaze in the dark, and remember his soul of light.

This clay which rests before us, in a fine casket made of wood, Is but the shell of a mortal man, who turned his life to good; His spirit no longer within it, his body no more to roam, Leading Aircraftman John Matthies has gone to his final home.

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John’s earthly leave has ended. He serves now in heaven’s domains. His rank has been upgraded, with the release of his physical strains. He’s reported for duty in spirit form, his mortal ills no more host. Leading Aircraftman John Matthies has arrived at his Final Post.

(Memorial) M. Ken Matthies, Canadian Ranger (Ret’d), CD

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In a rare and unique graveside military service tribute to my brother which could only have been arranged by the hand of a Celestial composer, Johns’ open grave site was overflown at very low altitude by a large trumpeting flock of Canada Geese, flying the Air Force’s Missing Man formation in their traditional V shape – and timed to perfection during those moments in which I had called out the order and stood myself to attention, to honor my brother with a farewell and final salute.

No greater distinction could have been offered in those moments then the one given; that even these majestic birds of the air took notice of his passing, and rose in their exquisite timing from a nearby field to pay their full-voiced respects and give a lasting and final honor to a man who had served their domain.

Leading Aircraftman John Matthies rests in the earth now, but his spirit lives on in service to his Final Post.

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