Monday, July 20, 2009

Death Never Takes a Holiday

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.


themom said...

This summer has not been a good one for sure. the cycle of life on to death never ceases. One day at a time is all we can ask, I guess.

I lost you on my networked blogs for FB - if you drop by you can add it again - thanx!

Utah Savage said...

It's a bit of the daily deathwatch at my place this summer. The only dying that matters much to me is the oncoming death of my two closest friends. Like a train-wreck bearing down on me.

Christopher said...

The death of Karl Malden was sad.

I thought he was amazing. From, "On the Waterfront," to, "A Streetcar Named Desire," and, "Baby Doll," to the TV series, "The Streets of San Francisco," I always enjoyed his work.

At least he lived to be a staggering 97 years of age. Not bad.

We were talking about who is left from this great era and we came up with:

1. Kirk Douglas
2. Ernest Borgnine
3. Joan Fontaine
4. Olivia de Haviland
5. Kim Novak
6. Doris Day

These men and women were stars and actors.

jmsjoin said...

The foundation of our past is slipping away. We are the foundation of the future. That seems shaky at best!

Anonymous said...

Boy, I was thinking of the same thing today, with Cronkite passing. It's getting creepy to say the least. A couple a week, and it can only get worse it seems. Most all of these people have been in my life all my life. I'm feeling OLD.

Comrade Kevin said...

I'd rather we make people like them again. Nothing could do their memory more justice, in my opinion.

Bee said...

The only thing we are guaranteed of from the moment we are born is that someday, we will all die. We don't even get to know how, in many cases.

Cronkite was an important face in our house when I was a little girl. It's not so much his passing that bothers me, it's what he took with him. "News" is dead now too.

Fran said...

Life is like that, but the losses can be hard to take. Take the time to mourn, but for me, it does make me feel like I have to live life.
Carpe diem.....

Time is short.....

Smell the roses

D.K. Raed said...

so sorry about your friend's mom's death. it is hard to lose a parent at any age, even when it is expected. your earliest memories, the ones that form the core of your being, will always be connected to them. I still have my dad but have missed my mom every day for 12-yrs.

Some snarky poet (maybe oscar wilde?) said that one of the "benefits" of living into middle age is that your friends & family start dying around you. It sure does seem like a lot of death in the last few weeks.

Amanda said...

It seems to come in waves, doesn't it? One of my parents' neighbors lost their 21-year-old son during all this in a car crash. Seat belts were on, no drugs or alcohol... just a horrible, awful, tragic, fatal accident.

I'm so sorry for your loss of your friend's mother. "Diminished" is a very accurate description of how I feel in the middle of these events as well.

Hugs, lady.

S said...

i agree, lots of good men (and women) dying lately.

i'm particularly saddened by cronkite's death.