Graveside Gratitude, Giving Thanks in November

AVAILABLE ON PODCAST

iTunes

Spotify

Anchor.fm

 

 

 

West Point Cemetery, Section XI with Monument to Molly Corbin in background. Anthony’s remains are interred here. (Margaret Corbin was heroine of the Revolution. When her husband fell in battle, she took his position at the cannon during the defense of Fort Washington.)

 

I learned more from two friends in death than I had learned from them in life. I had not known them well and perhaps that is why, but they were men I met whose lives touched mine, in a fashion, deeply enough to wish them a final farewell.

At Anthony’s burial I heard stories of kindness, of humor, of decency, from the eulogy and from guests. At Ed’s burial I heard an accounting of his life from his son-in-law, all of it consistent with the man who was our seat-mate at Army football games for a decade.

Most notably what has stayed with me about both men was a lesson about kindness, and a particular trait which I want to understand better, since the effects have been lasting. Anthony was my husband’s friend and they had played rugby together in Germany where they were both stationed as young officers. When we learned of his death, my husband Mark was stricken with sorrow, a palpable sadness and a physical heaviness from grief when it hits hard and sudden.

When Mark asked if I would attend the burial, I wasn’t sure because I hadn’t known Anthony well. I remembered his extraordinary social skills which I believed were the outgrowth of a career in sales. What I learned was that his talent for friendship had more to do with his genuine interest in others, and the desire to do them good. To a person, stories extolled this exceptional quality. Mark related the compliment Anthony made when he sacked him in rugby tryouts, and a friend told me about a vacation ride they had together. How Anthony made them feel all these years later was visible on their faces, that the memories of such an experience decades ago kindled warmth in their hearts.

 

 

My son salutes the flag-draped casket of Lieutenant Colonel Edward Francis Rhodes.  November 16, 2021

*

 

Where Anthony’s life was cut short, Ed lived a long life with many children and grandchildren. Ed had written his obituary in which he explained that his grandfather ran a hotel salon during prohibition and sold boot leg liquor for 14 years. They were able to put two sons through Notre Dame, then law school and then the FBI. He wrote that bootlegging with two sons in the FBI was a sign of the times, especially since the Feds shut down the operation only once in all those years. It’s unlike any obituary I’ve read before, which is fitting because it reminds me of Ed, since he was unlike anyone I’ve met before.

He was honest and self-deprecating, with a running commentary on Army football or life. During a disappointing play in the game, he would turn and mention in a flat tone: Army may not be big, but they sure are slow. When he talked with my children, he would ask, Did you make your bed today? I don’t remember what they said but I can see him asking, a smile hidden just behind the glimmer in his eye.  One time he explained to me that his Latin teacher made a big difference in his young life. He enumerated her virtues, which to hear him tell it, was like listening to Garrison Keillor. She may have never left his small town but she had the kind of persona that loomed large on the canvas of his life.

When I listened to Ed’s eulogy I was touched by the depth and conviction of his love and his faith. He died with his head in his daughter’s lap and his last words were:  I am so happy. The remains of Ed and of Anthony were interred at the West Point Cemetery, maybe thirty yards from each other, and nearly a year apart, last November and this November.

The person each man chose to be makes me think about the person I choose to be. Anthony’s desire to do good to others, Ed’s choice to bring joy to each interaction, both men’s authentic and abiding love for others. These are a bountiful legacy, and a lasting gift for those lucky enough to have known them.

Giving thanks to all those dearly departed souls who have enriched my life.

 

 

Headstone of Father and Daughter

 

 

Friend and Classmate “Totes” or Anthony Joseph DeToto

 

Nov 24, 2021

4 Comments

  1. Regan

    Beautiful! Thank you! And as my dad would say “God Bless”!!!!

    Reply
    • mylinhshattan

      Amazing man, may he rest in peace. I was better for having known him. My condolences.

      Reply
  2. Don

    Grip Hands! Rest In Peace Anthony!

    Reply
    • mylinhshattan

      Grip hands with us strengthen our hearts!

      Reply

Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

About the Author

Mylinh Shattan is a writer who has lived on three continents, served in the Army, worked in corporate America, and taught in college. She loves adventures, in the world and in the mind. Literature is relevant and learning is a lifelong pursuit, so you might as well have a bit of fun along the way.

Stay Up to Date

Become a better reader and writer today and try the TreeHouseLetter for free. Always learning with a bit of fun.

Latest Posts

Giving Thanks for Dissent and Cookies

3 Min read True Story On Gratitude and Dissent 1 Cookbook rec AVAILABLE IN PODCAST SPOTIFY APPLE PODCASTS * Giving thanks this time of year is a practice in gratitude. Gratitude is vogue, hip, lit. It's handy and eternal, an ever-ready virtue, making an appearance at...

On Perfect Love and Longing

4 Min read 2 Book recs True story AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify Apple Podcasts E-Bar in SONO's Nordstrom * The espresso and warm froth quicken the senses, which I need for what I'm about to hear. I'm sitting at the E-Bar on a Tuesday with my mother. I like it here and...

All Souls’ Day and the Haunting of 4714

4 Min read True story Paranormal activity, Scott Barracks 1 Book rec * All Souls' Day (NOV 2) is the day to remember the dead, observed by Roman Catholics. It follows All Saints' Day (NOV 1) and All Hallows' Eve (OCT 31 or Halloween) which commemorate the saints, the...

“Kinda This, Kinda That” in the Mid-pack

3 min read Mid-pack running True story 1 Book rec, ancient Toltec wisdom AVAILABLE ON PODCAST On Spotify Apple Podcasts * Mid-life has its miseries. As does adolescence and old age, and while we're on the topic, puppy-dom. My 11 month-old shepherd-boxsky mix Simba is...

What to Say When People Thank You for Your Service

3 Min read True Story from the SMA (The Sergeant Major of the Army) Army Ten-Miler, race in Washington, D.C. with 20,000 runners * AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes Sergeant Major of the Army Michael A. Grinston with West Point cadets * I want to share something I...

We Are All Made of Nouns*

2 Min read Short take 1 Book rec AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes * We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect. Anais Nin. In Anna Quindlen's new book, Write for Your Life, she says that people are "made of nouns, live by verbs, and enlarge and...

What Music Teaches Us About Writing

7 Min read The Music in Prose Creative Writing Forum, West Point Sentence rhythm, Beryl Markham and David Foster Wallace Writer's Toolbox, Improve writing immediately * AVAILABLE ON PODCAST Spotify iTunes I met with the Creative Writing Forum at West Point to discuss...

Topics

Become a better reader and writer today and try the TreeHouseLetter for free. Always learning with a bit of fun.