During the brief but highly formal ceremony at Jefferson Barracks National Cemetery, my mother sat in the seat nearest the road, as we were instructed, and accordingly, the honor guard presented her with the elaborately folded flag in the final moments. The soldier leaned forward and spoke of the gratitude of the nation for those who have served in the armed forces, and he slowly handed over the flag. Later she reported that he had fully kept eye contact with her during the entirety of this exchange. This was just one of the formalities--the slow-motion salutes, the bugle's slow notes, the three riflemen discharging their weapons in unison three times. Part of the meaning is in the formality, part of the respect and the assertion of significance, all of which is a counterweight to the loss we were all feeling moment by moment there among the rows of perfectly aligned white stones.