Every year on Memorial Day weekend, there is a special service broadcast Sunday night on PBS. It is a program to honor the veterans and fallen soldiers of all wars and it always takes place in front of the Capitol Building in Washington, D.C. Tribute is given not only to those who died, but also to those wounded veterans still with us. There is a mixture of music and song and dramatic readings, all crafted with love and respect. And I usually cry. Maybe more than once during the evening. It’s OK to cry, I think. Our veterans need to be remembered with our thanks, our prayers and even our tears.
Last year, I was watching, as usual. My kitty, Tabitha, was fast asleep on my lap. At the end of the tribute someone plays taps – always a solemn, poignant moment.
Tabby, who has never paid the slightest attention to the television, jumped off my lap, jumped onto the table holding the TV, maneuvered as close as she could get sideways to the set and sat absolutely still, her head bowed, through to the last haunting notes. She then jumped down from the table and wandered away. I sat stunned at what had just happened.
And as I tell this story a year later, it is still unbelievable. If I had been able to catch it on a smartphone, I’d not only have proof that it really happened, but maybe if I’d put it on the internet, it might have gone viral. It was unreal.
I have no idea why my Tabby reacted as she did that night. I’d like to give her credit for reverence toward the beautiful sound of taps, but I cannot make that claim.
I just know it wasn’t a random act on her part, because she has never before, or since, paid any attention to anything on TV.
But I’d like to think her response, whatever the reason, could be the way all Americans might respond at the playing of those beautiful notes – at least it has always been my response. For two reasons.
Perhaps most of us only remember the tune being played at funerals and memorial services. It always brings both sadness and reverence. And it is the first reason I hold taps in respect.
But I wonder if people are aware that there are words to taps. They are not sad and they are the second reason I love this song.
The words are beautiful: “Day is done. Gone the sun. From the lake. From the hills. From the sky. All is well. Safely rest. God is nigh.”
These are words of comfort and peace. Different in a way from respect and sadness.
My summer cottage in Michigan is on a lake, and my ritual most nights is to watch the sun set. And every time I watch, I know that feeling of comfort and peace. My day is done. And God is near.
Now obviously, my Tabby shares none of these feelings in her furry little head. And if you’ve ever had the pleasure of living with a cat, you know you can never predict their behavior or the “why” of what they do. And yet, there she was, sitting perfectly still, right next to the TV, head bowed through the entire playing of taps.
I look forward to this year’s special and the bugle ringing out at the end of that Sunday night tribute. Will she do it again? I do not know.
I only know it is my wish that we humans, who know the reasons we do what we do most of the time, might always show that same respect and reverence as we hear those poignant notes.