RICHARD LABIN, JR. “The Unknown Citizen”
[This is a poem I wrote for my father’s memorial service, with inspiration from W.H. Auden’s “The Unknown Citizen” and T.S. Eliot’s “The Love Song of J. Alfred Prufrock.”]. copyright 2001 Linda L. Labin, PhD–all rights reserved.
Those surprised when my daddy died, cried and said “Who Knew?”
They all thought they had more time, you see, to talk to Dad anew.
But Dad’s bright flame grew dimmer, as pain-filled days ensued.
Like Prufrock, you all believed, you said, you’d pay a call in time.
“And there will be time–there will be time,” but time outran this brave man’s heart.
You thought you had “time for a hundred visions and revisions,” too.
Too late, too late, too late by far, as Death’s cruel hunger grew.
And time ran out for my sweet Dad, as it will for me and you.
According to government statistics, my dad was just an average man.
He held the proper point of view for the time in which he grew.
“When there was peace, he was for peace.
When there was war, he went.”
Dad served his country gallantly, wounded three times on the line.
Contributed two children, six grandchildren, three great-grandchildren to the population design.
It seemed my dad was normal–or average–just like all of you.
He and his generation, though, did something others fail to do.
Dad worked every day, ’til the day he retired.
And faced every challenge with humor and quietude.
He never shirked his duty, though mind and body grew tired.
He never asked for favors, nor for the honors that were his due.
My dad, you see, was a man who loved his family and the US, too.
Dad walked all over Europe, from Utah Beach to the Rhine.
But he never cursed his luck; you never heard him whine.
Dad came home with both legs and left jaw shattered, wounded in body and soul.
Yet my dad laughed at adversity; he’d golf until Judgment Day.
Dad’s spirit and his courage were unbent,
Even when his tired, proud heart decided it was spent.
Now in Heaven he’s shot another hole in one;
Now in Heaven he’s no longer under the gun.
Dad fought for our freedom, our right to believe or not.
Our right to sleep safe in our beds, and never asked for a lot.
Just become whatever we chose, to go where others feared.
To agree with him or not. Dad shed no tears as he fought
For our right to love God and family, our country and all mankind.
My dad was just a simple man, braver than anyone ever knew.
Soft-spoken, kind, and gentle, but virile through and through.
And when his tired old heart wore out, nobody even knew.
One year ago, Mom almost died, the only time my daddy cried.
It broke his heart to think she’d leave him first, you know.
My dad, you see, was a soldier, forever brave and true.
He made the whole world safe and never asked for thanks.
And, once again, my Dad alone confronted Death face to face.
Now he’s marching in Heaven’s Infantry,
Smoothing the way for Mom, and you, and me.
We miss you, Dad, but “we’ll be seeing you”
When time stands still, our love renewed.