Sunday, July 26, 2009

The Extremes of Life and Death

Two deaths touched me this weekend. Two who couldn’t be further apart, in time or age.

The oldest and last British veteran of WWI, Harry Patch, succumbed to the ravage of time at the age of 111 on Saturday. The WWII generation is rightly referred to as ‘the greatest generation’, but the generation who fought “the war to end all wars” was pretty great too. If you're not familiar with the history of the Great War, read some. The horrors are, even when compared against later wars, astonishing. Most of an entire generation of British young men went away to war and perished in the mud of Belgium and France. "Anyone who tells you that in the trenches they weren't scared, he's a damned liar: you were scared all the time," Patch said. A reluctant warrior, but an honorable one nonetheless.

At the other end of the spectrum, his family buried junior firefighter Jacob Rosa on Saturday, dead at age nine from cancer. The Camden, NJ Fire Department honored him as one of their own, having made him an honorary firefighter just a few weeks ago and helping him realize part of his dream to grow up and become a firefighter. They stood rigid at attention and saluted as his coffin passed before them.

I ever knew either of these two before I read about them in the paper. I hope they know how many others were touched by their lives.

The both earned their angels’ wings…

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