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Final Honors
Margaret Coombs


I stand for hours, chatting with strangers
who extol my husband’s deceased dad.
My emotions well, but I stay stalwart
to honor him, that old Marine. 
The funeral director drapes
an American flag on the casket.
His grandsons carry it to the hearse
for its trip to their grandmother,
who waits for her husband to enter
the newly shoveled emptiness beside her.
An honor guard of two stands ready
to perform their staccato ritual.
With white gloves they give a slow-motion salute,
crease and fold our country’s flag.
A solemn “Taps” wafts. July’s mid-day light
vibrates around the bugler, who stands on a mound
and glows like a heavenly messenger
arrived from the past, from before we were born.
I flash. These characters
from his life’s earliest chapters appear
again at its end to claim him,
while we, his family, sit at graveside, bereft.
The funeral director lifts a spade of dirt,
drops it in. A Marine bends on one knee,
offers my husband the flag.
My cheeks feel suddenly wet.

© by Margaret Coombs.
Used with the author’s permission.


Margaret Coombs is a retired academic librarian who lives in Manitowoc, Wisconsin. She recently changed her writing name to her birth name as a way to connect with the literary dreams she had as a child. Margaret's work has appeared in several publications and her first chapbook, The Joy of Their Holiness, was published in 2020 under the name Peggy Turnbull. Learn about Margaret at



Post New Comment:
Wilda Morris:
Posted 11/13/2019 05:45 PM
Well Done.
Posted 11/11/2019 04:00 PM
Posted 11/11/2019 01:24 PM
Janet Leahy:
Thank you for this beautiful poem on this very special day.
Posted 11/11/2019 12:31 PM
Posted 11/11/2019 11:39 AM
My cheeks, too.
Posted 11/11/2019 11:06 AM
Now I'm in tears! Last night I sang "Bring Him Home" in our chapel service. How fitting to read this beautiful poem this morning about an honorable Marine being brought home. Thank you
Posted 11/11/2019 07:47 AM
:( please take care!
Posted 11/11/2019 05:12 AM

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