So this blog is more about a friendship than about a battle. Anybody who has followed me knows that a few years ago I lost a friend named Dave. For those of you who don’t, let me explain. His wife Katie was my first friend in my first job as an ER nurse, and we’ve gone through the years celebrating each other’s highs and commiserating over each other’s lows. And somewhere in there, Katie married Dave, a paramedic/firefighter who used to frequent our ER. Dave was someone special, the kind of person who made you smile just knowing you were going to see him. He was a Renaissance man; engineer, math wizard, classic music expert, scuba instructor, sailing master, climber of the Colorado 14s, and he built and flew his own bi-plane.
Well, when Dave died, everybody who loved him was shattered. Especially Katie. We couldn’t just let him go; not somebody that special. So Katie cadged some empty pill bottles, and she filled them with Dave’s ashes. And every time we go somewhere Dave loved or would love to go, we take him along. And then we take his picture, usually wearing an appropriate hat and sunglasses, wherever we go, and especially where we’ve left him. He’s been to the Grand Canal in Venice, the Andes in Chile, The Ganges and the Taj Mahal in India, and the whorehouse in Pompeii. We had an Irish Wake for him in Dingle and a Jazz Funeral in New Orleans, with more and more people joining in.
And now, he’s been to Waterloo. Okay, he hasn’t just been to Waterloo. Saturday we got to go to the Allied forces encampment and see the soldiers muster behind their pipes and fifes and drums, helmets flashing, kilts swirling, feet thundering against the dry earth. We followed them as they marched to their encampment and set up. And then John, our tour guide, introduced me to some of the reenactors, who portray the 41st Foot. And while Jon was speaking to his friend Tom, who was a captain, I asked three other gentlemen if they would mind having their picture taken with Dave(I had thought of putting a shako on him, but the physics just wouldn’t work). You can see the first reaction(which, considering the fact that they’re playing battlefield, I find pretty funny). But as I was explaining to them about Dave and what we’re doing, Tom turned my way.
“Do you want us to leave him on the battlefield for you?”
I admit. I crowed a bit. “Would you? Dave would love that!”
The one guy still looked a bit disbelieving. But Tom kept nodding. “Come to think of it, we’re just about ready to work our powder.” (the gunpowder is strictly controlled, so one of the duties at the encampment is to wrap the wads for the guns and cannons). “Would you like us to mix
him in and blow him at the French?”
I have to tell you, I was utterly speechless. I swear I could hear Dave laughing. “Are you kidding?” I demanded. “You’d do that?”
He shrugged. “Why not? It’d sure be something special. Leave a little of him here and we’ll do it. We’re supposed to be supporting Hougoumont tonight(at the reenactment). “Why don’t you leave a little?”
“A little? I left what was left after dropping him in Amsterdam and Bruges canals.
I couldn’t wait to get back and tell my friend Sally, who’d been taking the tour with.
“Where’s Dave?” she asked when she saw me. “Did you get his picture?”
“I did better than that.”
“He’s been sprinkled on the battlefield.”
“No. He’s going to be blown from a cannon all over the feckin’ battlefield.”
Oddly enough, we were overheard by other tour members. I never know how people are going to take our tribute(witness the expression on the soldier). But this group regularly went to the reenactments of great battles. They couldn’t think of a better send-off(as it were).
And when, later that night, as the smoke poured out of the cannons and the distance cheers of hussars could be heard, when Green Jackets traded shots with Voltigeurs, and men on horses circled tight squares of men bristling with bayonets, I saw the artillery tamping a wad into the cannon and men lining up in the windows of Hougoumont. And, just as they said they would, they fired a magnificent volley. And everyone in the group yelled “Dave!” I mean, how can you top that?