Required Reading. I came across this story a few weeks ago. It’s quiet and heartbreaking and powerful. “Winter of Departures” by Susanna Kwan.
Recently, at a neighbor’s memorial, I saw a young man in uniform press a button inside the barrel of his bugle, his white gloves bright against the polished yellow metal, before bringing the instrument to his lips and filling the cemetery with the sound of “Taps.” During the minute the song played, the muscles in his cheeks and neck did not move. No one else seemed to notice it was a recording. Another man in uniform presented the family with a flag folded into a soft-cornered triangle like a chain letter or the notes girls used to pass in Language Arts.
When I was very young, I lived downstairs from a retired band director who volunteered as a bugler for military funerals. I could tell from Mr. O’Rourke’s footsteps when he was preparing to leave his apartment. Sometimes when I heard his door shut I would open mine to catch him on his way down.
“The twenty-four hardest notes to play,” he’d say, lifting his trumpet case and pointing the bell end at me.