When we die, we want to be remembered. We want there to be lots of people at our funeral because that would mean we lived a meaningful life filled with love.
For people who feel lonely during life, it is difficult to think there will be no lasting memory of them after their death. It is a sad reality where individuals are left behind by family members, friends, and loved ones who have already perished.
Serina Vine was a 91-year-old World War II veteran with no known relatives when she died earlier this year. But at her funeral, over 200 “brothers and sisters” showed up to pay their respects.
It all started when William Jones, a retired Marine who works at Quantico National Cemetery, invited Major Jaspen Boothe to attend the funeral. He told her there would only be four people attending the service because Serina was homeless and did not have any family.
Maj. Boothe knew she needed to take action and ensure Vine was being honored in the right way. She said, “In the military, we don’t serve alone, therefore we should not die alone.”
Formerly a homeless veteran herself, Maj. Boothe currently runs a nonprofit called “Final Salute” which helps to assist homeless women veterans with finding housing, obtaining employment, and supporting their children. She understood the isolation, desertion, and emptiness a homeless person feels and vowed to help Serina not experience these in death.
Posting on all the Facebook veterans groups she could think of, she asked people to come out to Serina’s funeral and show their support. “I was thinking my efforts would make maybe 20 to 30 people show up, but when I arrived, there were hundreds of cars lined up,” said Maj, Boothe.
Wow, was she surprised! Arriving at the cemetery, cars were backed up for half a mile causing Maj, Boothe to think there were multiple events happening, but they were all there for Serina thanks to her efforts!
“We are connected through our service and through our sacrifice. Look around now, she has 200 or so family members. As long as you’re a veteran you have friends and family everywhere and you’re never alone,” said Maj. Boothe.
Serena’s appointed legal custodian, Katie Bryan, added, “It was a beautiful sight to see for this person that no one knew. My whole intent was to give her the same time and respect that I would do for my own mother, from picking out a casket she would like with crosses on since she was an avid church goer. If this is my mother, this is how I want her to be treated.”
According to her caretakers at the nursing home, she spoke three languages and loved going to church. Census data shows she was born in 1924, and that she graduated from the University of California at Berkely in 1954.
Not much is known about Serena Vines’ life or how much she was able to accomplish in her 91 years on this Earth. We do not know if she felt alone while walking the streets or in her last few moments alive, but we do know she was able to be celebrated and thanked by a large crowd in her death, getting a final sendoff that she deserved.
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