I picked up the wooden case today to hold and preserve and display the flag that was on the casket with my parents inside the day we buried them in Arlington last summer.

The whole thing had miracle written all over it. First the way Mom’s cremated remains fit inside Dad’s casket, then the way her scheduled interment was delayed by the pandemic until it was time to bury Dad. And then today, when I found out the man who made the flag case served in Iceland the year right after Dad was Commander there!

Retired Air Force Colonel Mike Outten is his name, and Alice-Lyle found him, not me.

Mike makes these triangular wooden commemorative display cases in batches of 12-14 about three times a month. Ours is cherry wood with dark mahogany stain. 

He knew about driving out to the light station at Höfn, along the south coast of Iceland where you can see puffins and black sand beaches and glaciers next to the sea. 

Not everyone knows the details of one of Mom and Dad’s favorite places.

He listened as I explained how Dad made flag rank despite being an outsider who didn’t go to Annapolis and never commanded a ship (only a squadron of sub-hunting planes) and afterward simply said, “I’d love to be buried at Arlington.” I almost cried.

Mike’s next station after Keflavik was an Air Force base in Alexandria, Louisiana–just north of Baton Rouge. After he retired he wanted to move to Harrisburg, Pennsylvania, but his wife is from Montgomery, Alabama, which he vetoed. They threw a dart and landed on North Carolina. They moved to Greensboro for a year and hated it. Then they visited Charlotte and driving down Providence Road said “this is it.” 

Now they live out in the country past Mint Hill in a place they built with a separate shop building out back for his woodworking business. And it might seem like the miracle is the military-Iceland-Charlotte connection, but that’s just a coincidence!

The miracle is that I asked for support on this incompletion, and that Alice-Lyle found him without my lifting a finger. 

A bigger miracle is that I listened and didn’t take up all the space talking about my Dad or my anything. I looked at Mike and asked what his story was that landed him in the wilderness of Mint Hill, and then I actually listened. Listening is always a miracle.