“. . . from these honored dead we take increased devotion to that cause
for which they gave the last full measure of devotion—that we here
highly resolve that these dead shall not have died in vain . . . ”
This year I have experienced loss. Incomprehensible, unfair, out-of-the-accepted-timeline loss.
On March 1, after one of the most spectacular snowstorms in a ski season that featured less than ideal conditions at most of the major ski areas across the country, three young men went into the back country and made their way up an ungroomed, pristine slope. They did everything right, testing for potential avalanche conditions, wearing emergency beacons that would help them be found in case of an accident, using equipment that was correct for the conditions. The afternoon was filled with sunshine and a wealth of fresh powder just begging to be shared with good friends.
That afternoon also contained the avalanche that killed my former Boy Scout, Ben. At 29 he was living his dream. He loved high adventure and after earning a degree in English at a New Hampshire university, he headed for California to pursue a life of skiing, white water rafting, rock climbing, bicycling; if an activity included adventure, extreme fun and friends, Ben was ready. Full of life, thrilled by friendships as well as his many adventures, his very being burned as bright and rare as a comet across the awareness of everyone who knew him.
How his parents dealt with this loss I may never know. We parents cannot conceive of a child dying before we do, and certainly not before the age of 30. It makes no sense. It’s not part of the trail we expect for our beloved child. That nightmare phone call is not even a chapter in any of the child care books we are recommended.
And yet, this scenario is happens nearly every day to the families of American military people. I do not know them all, nor do I know their families, but that disbelief, crumpling into a chair with a scream of shock and sadness is the same no matter where the family lives. Young men and women with fantastic plans are gone in an instant. Loving arms can no longer hold them. A place at the holiday table is forever empty. Children grow up without a parent. Parents grow old without their daughter or son.
Memorial Day should be devoted not only to remembering our honored dead, but to questioning how long the human race will continue the devastating destruction of war. How many more spectacular people will have their comets extinguished before their mark can be made?
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