Death is a part of life. It is easy to say, but hard to accept when it hits close to home. Such is the sadness. We are each one of a kind and cannot be replaced. There is only one of us. And so when that one passes it is permanent. It will never happen again. All of the memories and learned behaviors, all of the dreams of that person, all of the plans they put together - some of them coming to fruition and some of them missing the mark. All the times they stubbed their toe or climbed into a tree as a young boy looking out at the grass and houses from above in awe. All of them are gone with one flicker of time.
The average person tries to do good, not driven by a religion, but driven by their love for what other humans provide to them and what they provide other humans. Maybe it’s doing something nice just to receive a smile back. Both have gained. Doing good doesn’t have to be because somebody or some being told you to do good. If that is the only reason you do good things then you must have a pretty sad life. I point this out because it relates to the story on death and dying.
Every day we are losing patriots, those who fought in World War Two. A few days ago we lost another one. A Navy man who fought in the war, came back and carved out a little piece of the American dream, married for decades and raised two beautiful daughters. It saddens me every time we lose another one of these Americans. They fought hard and sacrificed to build this country and bring it forward to where we sit today, in relative comfort, almost all of our needs met and plenty of our wants fulfilled. All of the things they have learned and that aren't passed on to us are erased if not written down or recorded in some way. It is a loss this nation feels gravely.
The gentleman who recently passed gave me joy in the things that I could get away with. I will miss him trying to catch me sneaking up and shoveling the snow from his driveway while he was sleeping. You see, to people of that generation not properly thanking the one who did something for you was an affront to the social norm and nearly the equivalent of a sin. He probably was pretty annoyed that he couldn’t thank me, but I take comfort that maybe, maybe just once he looked out there and smiled, thankful that he didn’t have to try to bring his 80+ year old body out into the elements and take the risk.
“Stop patting yourself on the back,” you may say. To which I reply that I am not. I never asked for anyone to notice, I bring it up to point out that I gained from that as much as he did. I feel a loss at not being able to continue surprising him. It gave me a secret joy. It was the doing good that I mentioned above. Doing good for goodness sake, not for a reward other than knowing you've helped someone out.
As much as I consider myself to be a man of logic and reason, divorced from emotion and just looking at things as “everyone dies, that’s just a fact”, I do indeed feel the loss. As much as I try to put off the emotional trap, one can’t be a robot all of the time when you’re a human being.
The funerals? I do not attend them. I prefer to remember the person for the way they were and the way they are in my memory. There is a guarantee that there have been some callous comments about my lack of presence by those who do choose to attend them, as if they are somehow better for having done so. I’d just like to point out that many people that attend simply do so because they are forced by social pressure and really would much rather not go. I don’t feel like I have to make an appearance to show others that I cared for someone. I know I care and that’s all that matters. I do not need closure or to have someone remind me of what the person did. If I did not pay enough attention and talk to them when they were alive, well then it's too late to hear stories about them later. I prefer to try to talk to them while they're alive and actually listen to them and urge them on to tell me more about themselves. I guess that is also selfish in a way as I get the privilege of learning from them.
I feel the loss of this fellow patriot and sailor. It was an honor to do things for you, sir.
Rest now in the quiet, Hugh, and thank you.