At , with the funeral set at , Jerrold was forced to make his decision. He would be faithful to his position, to the deceased protectors of the
, to their families. He would
allow the funerals to progress. Then he
would take his punishment for the loss of Michael Leonard Smith’s urn box. One way or another. United States
He called to the gate and let the guard know it was time to allow mourners to enter. There were ten cars waiting for access to the funeral, all lined up at the entrance wondering if our country was under attack. The first one in the queue was Janet MacDonald, Jerrold’s wife.
Janet sped to Jerrold's office, grabbed her flowers and the favorite sandwich she’d brought with her. She dashed inside as Jerrold looked up. He was just getting ready to walk over to the commitment shelter. She walked quickly to him, placing the things in her hands on his desk and wrapped her arms around him. “Are you alright? What has happened today? I’ve been worried sick about you.” She hugged him close to her, damn the protocol.
Jerrold was speechless. He wanted to take her outside and spill everything he’d been thinking, tell her about the missing urn, about losing his job and ask her forgiveness for being such a loser. His head throbbed from the nitroglycerin he’d just taken, but his heartbeat had settled down and his arm quit aching.
Tears formed in his eyes as she looked at him, then hugged him again. She’d never seen him cry and knew this was a significant point in their marriage.
“I have a funeral,” he said quietly.
“I know. We’ll talk after. I’ll wait here for you.”
“There are eighteen today.”
“Maybe Mr. Greevy could step in for you just for today.”
Cherrie, who couldn’t help overhearing their words, said, “I’ll find Harold and I know he keeps slacks and a dress shirt in his truck for emergencies.” She dashed out the door.At , every car had parked, every cushion held a mourner for Mrs. Rene Christophson, wife of Lt. Commander Richard Thomas Christophson, USN.
The minister stood to talk about the deceased as an attendent held the urn that would be interred in the same crypt as Richard Christophson.
Natalie, who had been waiting two hours for this moment, fidgeted, annoying the people in the third row where she sat. At last she stood, walked up to the minister and announced, “This funeral cannot continue. It is a fake and must be stopped.”
The minister said, “I’m sorry for you loss, but why don’t you sit down here next to me and I’ll continue. We cannot deny this fine woman the last wishes of herself and her husband, the Lt. Colonel.”
“Oh yes we can,” Natalie blurted out with her voice raised. She shoved her hand into her purse as several people flinched. She pulled back her hand holding a sheaf of papers.
“I saw the obituary notice in the newspaper about this woman’s death.”
From stunned silence, the congregation of the somber men and women registered bemusement, chagrin, irritation and hostility on their faces as Natalie continued. “I have for a long time been studying the genealogy of my family to find where I placed in the world. I am an adopted child whose birth mother died when I was four years old. All of her papers were kept for me by my mother’s sister. In those papers I found my birth father’s Last Will and Testament.” Natalie placed a set of papers on the minister’s podium. You will see highlighted here that my father mandated in his will for my mother to be interred with him in this military cemetery. My mother was a military wife
who moved all over the world as my father was deployed to
, to Alaska , to Argentina and Germany . She bore hardships you cannot
imagine while hauling her five children with her to all these countries and
adapting like an octopus to homes without bathrooms, without running water,
without vegetables, for heaven’s sake, so she could keep our family together
during the time my father was irreverently sent all over the place by his
government. She ultimately died of
malaria contracted in Korea in the 1950’s.” Natalie laid down a death certificate for her
mother, Martina Louise Christophson. Panama
“Meanwhile,” Natalie continued, “my father was captured in
and left in a camp until his apparent release sometime around 1960, but
nobody knew where he was. My brothers
and I were separated and raised by various relatives and adoptive parents. My father apparently was released and either
did not want his family or was so damaged that he forgot about us. In any case, he remarried this woman lying
here today. However, he never bothered to be divorced
before marrying Rene Christophson." north Korea
Natalie found the death certificate for her father, Richard Christophson and laid it on top of the podium with her other paperwork. “Then he died.”
Jerrold, who’d been standing to the side of seating benches spoke up. “Ms., the woman being interred here today was your father’s legal wife, and her name appeared in his will as being buried with him in this veteran’s cemetery.”
“But, don’t you get it? So was my mother’s name. Yes, my father was apparently a bigamist, probably through no fault of his own. But my mother is the one who deserves to be buried with him. She went through fifteen years of hell with and for him, all out of love.”
Natalie turned to the grievers in the first row that was dedicated to the immediate family members. “I have nothing against your mother. But my mother was Richard’s legal husband and in the Federal Benefits for Veterans book, you will find that it’s my mothers right to be buried next to her husband as mandated by his will.” Natalie added the benefits booklet to the stack of paperwork she’d set before the minister, who now stood with his mouth open.
At first the silence was overwhelming.
Then a bereaved woman in the front row stood up with a tall man, turned to Natalie and said, “That is the most ridiculous thing I have ever heard. My father was not a bigamist and you obviously have contrived to malign the name of a wonderful human being. Now you get out of here and let us continue in our grief. My mother died. Can’t you see that?”
“If your mother is buried in the same crypt as my father then my attorney will sue the Veteran’s Administration and I’ll go to the newspapers, the television media and anybody else I can find. Everybody will know he was a bigamist. Even though he was my father as well.”
Chaos reigned after that.