George Scithers's ashes were buried in Arlington National Cemetery on Wednesday, June 2, only two days after Memorial Day. George was a West Point graduate and served in the Signal Corps for 21 years. He was in the Korean War, where half the members of his graduating class died. He served his country honorably and well.
Marianne and I were present, along with Tom Purdom, Darrell Schweitzer, John Betancourt, and many other representatives of the science fiction community, to see George off. His relatives were a little startled by how many of us there were . . . Apparently they had no idea how important a figure he was in science fiction.
If there's one thing the military knows how to do, it's honor their dead. There was a military ceremony with a 21-gun salute and a color guard who formally folded the flag and gave it to George's life companion Larry. Then the box containing George's ashes was carried to the site of his grave where a chaplain performed the religious ceremony.
All the stones at Arlington are identical. There's space for the symbol for your religion if you have one, years of birth and death, rank, and the names of any wars served in. Otherwise, everyone is treated exactly the same. It seems a strangely fit way to mark this solemn transition.
Now George is a citizen in the democracy of death.
And on the same subject . . .
While we were mingling and talking beforehand, Sandy Meschkow reminisced about how decades before George had come back from the funeral of John W. Campbell and said that it would almost be worth dying to have Isaac Asimov read the 23rd psalm at your funeral.
Well, that didn't happen, of course. So I thought I'd place it here as a sort of silent prayer, for all those who would have liked to attend the ceremony but could not.
The Lord is my Shepherd; I shall not want.He maketh me to lie down in green pastures:He leadeth me beside the still waters.He restoreth my soul:He leadeth me in the paths of righteousness for His name' sake.
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death,I will fear no evil: For thou art with me;Thy rod and thy staff, they comfort me.Thou preparest a table before me in the presence of mine enemies;Thou annointest my head with oil; My cup runneth over.
Surely goodness and mercy shall follow me all the days of my life,and I will dwell in the House of the Lord forever.