In fact, lately Death seems to have become a work-a-holic. It seems as if everyone is dying left and right this summer.
As everyone has already noted, we lost Walter Cronkite over the weekend, who was the voice of the news for so many of us in my generation. The NY Times had a fitting tribute to him in today's paper.
"Some deaths end only a life. Some end a generation. Walter Cronkite’s death ends something larger and more profound. He stood for a world, a century, that no longer exists. His death is like losing the last veteran of a world-changing war, one of those men who saw too much but was never embittered by it. Walter Cronkite’s gift was to talk to us about what he saw, and we are very lucky to have been able to listen."
Then it was Frank McCourt, cut down at 78 by melanoma. Another sad loss; I'm sure he had many more stories to tell and more teaching to do.
I also read of the death of the world's oldest man, Henry Allingham of Great Britain. He lived to be 113, but should be remembered for much more than that, as he was Britain's last WW I veteran of the RAF, and on top of that he made it his mission that no one should forget those lost in the Great War, as it was called back when he served.
"He was the last survivor of the Battle of Jutland in 1916, a survivor of the Battle of Ypres in 1917, and the sole survivor of the original RAF.
Henry's astonishing stamina, determination and loyalty to lost comrades saw him work constantly to ensure his memories - and their sacrifices - were not forgotten.
Blind, almost deaf and gnarled with arthritis, he made scores of personal visits each year to tell his stories to young people and spread a message of peace."
And at the personal level, the mother of one of my closest childhood friends, whom I've known since I was only 14, passed away over the weekend. She had been ill for quite awhile with cancer, and was in her late 80s, so it was not a shock, certainly not for her children who had been watching her decline. But she was their only remaining parent and now both of them are gone. It must be a strange feeling to suddenly stop being someone's child, no matter how old you are. I lost my dad in 2005 but still have my mother. I know that could change at any time, since she is 90, and I try not to think how that will feel.
To quote John Donne,
"No man is an island entire of itself; every man
is a piece of the continent, a part of the main;
if a clod be washed away by the sea, Europe
is the less, as well as if a promontory were, as
well as any manner of thy friends or of thine
own were; any man's death diminishes me,
because I am involved in mankind.
And therefore never send to know for whom
the bell tolls; it tolls for thee."
I am feeling very diminished today.