Thursday, October 14, 2010

Sense and Sensibility



What is a sensible death? I hear the term senseless death all the time. If there are senseless deaths, then surely there are sensible deaths as well, yes? What came to me is that a sensible death would include scenarios in which the dying person is old, has lived a very full life, is ready to go - and the person's nearests and dearests are ready to let go. A sensible death is one in which the dying person is in his/her own bed, surrounded by the people who can be of most help with the passing. Also sensible is a death for someone who is riddled with disease, in terrible pain, without a chance for improvement.

How about senseless deaths? I decided, walking among the tombstones at Arlington National Cemetery yesterday, that accidents create senseless deaths. Car crashes, accidental electrocutions (while working on the wiring of one's house, for instance), falling off ladders, roofs, falling off cliffs while hiking - all of those kinds of situations create senseless death. All executions, for any reason, are senseless (and cold blooded, if you ask me.)

I used to believe that soldiers who died in the line of duty had suffered from senseless deaths. I'm not so sure anymore. Unless a soldier is fighting completely against his or her own will, that is. Assuming a soldier is doing something he/she believes to be the right thing, surrounded by like minded troops, I'm thinking that death in the line of duty is not senseless. Tragic, YES, but senseless? I'm not convinced.

We are eternally bonded, says the stone commemorating veterans of the brutal Khe Sanh engagements during the Vietnam War. It also says, "Remember all who served, sacrificed." Though quite somber, the words on this stone convey (to me at least) a sense of cohesiveness among those who fought, a well-earned pride. Soldiers understand the risks involved, yet they gather their wits about them, walk shoulder to shoulder with their brothers onto the battlefields. Wars themselves? STUPID. I am such an anti-war person. But the deaths of those who put themselves on the line? I no longer believe this is a senseless way to die.

It was a lovely day yesterday, perfectly gorgeous Colorado weather: dry, cool air, warm sunshine, shocking blue skies, the trees just beginning to turn. I walked for hours around the cemetery, completely content and peaceful (THANK YOU SUFI ACUPUNCTURIST!)

It was a sensible way to spend the afternoon, oh yeah, strolling through the rows of headstones, thinking and wondering, whispering back and forth with my beloved dead soldiers. Just as I turned a corner to leave the cemetery, an Army guy drove slowly past. He said, "Ma'am, are you hoping to exit the grounds?" When I said yes, he pointed out that I was headed towards a dead end, that I needed to walk a bit further, then turn a corner. I thanked him sincerely. Those Army guys are, for the most part, so polite. They take care of us as best they can. I am very grateful. Shalom.

17 comments:

ellen abbott said...

You said it so well.

Reya Mellicker said...

Thanks, Ellen!

jeanette from everton terrace said...

Very interesting thoughts Reya (as always). I am looking forward to visiting Arlington someday. It was over 100 degrees here yesterday so I'm back to being all put out.

Reya Mellicker said...

Jeanette I don't blame you! Please come to DC! We could have so much fun walking around together.

Angela said...

There is a beautiful very old and large cemetery in Hamburg, with high-grown rhododendrons and benches to sit on. A place to spend afternoons in. My grandmother used to take me, visiting her parents` grave. As soon as I could read I read the inscriptions. On so many of the stones there were names engraved, of young men, some only 19, some 23, died or missed in the war of 1939to 45. No matter the cause, they had fought for their country. Two of my uncles were among them, one a baker, one a butcher. Missed in Russia.
I sometimes think, at least this war brought Europe to its senses. We are not fighting each other any more. But I still would have liked to meet my uncles and not see my grandmother sad until she died.

The Bug said...

I love this - it echoes how I feel about war & soldiers. I am SO AGAINST war & SO FOR soldiers - I've never understood why people think they're mutually exclusive...

NanU said...

Beautifully put. It's important to separate the soldiers, who so often fight valiantly and only to protect us, from wars and the people who start them.

Arlington is gorgeous. I like the serene sameness of all our military cemeteries - Fort Rosecrans in San Diego and the American Cemetery in Arromanches, France both have those waves of evenly spaced stones, white and at peace.

Elizabeth said...

Yes, I tend to think soldiers for the most part are trying their hardest to do the right thing and it is so very very horrible when they die young.

I cannot think what we are hoping to do in Afghanistan--enough of that.

Glad the Sufi acupuncturist did the trick.

Yesterday was pretty bad psychicly (is that a word?). Today better.
Am trying to get to the bottom of the silver balls mystery!

glnroz said...

that posts reflects the nice person that you are..thnx

Reya Mellicker said...

Thanks, Glenn! And thanks for your nice note of encouragement yesterday. Onwards and upwards!

Nancy said...

Very well said, Reya. i totally agree with everything you said.

Lizzy Frizzfrock said...

I agree with your conclusion about those Americans who die in wars, if they believe in their cause that it is not a senseless way to die; tragic yes, senseless no.

During the Viet Nam era I thought the deaths were senseless; I honored those who died, but did not agree with the politics of the time.

I still think that those people responsible for sending our military into harms way must do so with extreme truth... no fudging about the purpose of the mission.

Another thought comes to mind is that people of Islam who believe that killing of innocents is part of their cause are also misguided. Those are senseless deaths in my belief. The deaths caused by them and their own deaths. It is similar to the kamikazis in WWII... senseless all around. But of course these people do not (did not) consider it senseless.

How do we reconcile with the various cultures and religions to determine senseless deaths due to war?

Reya Mellicker said...

What a good question, Cheryl. We really are one world now. Who is to say whose cultural values are the best, or "right" ? In traditional Japanese culture, suicide is seen as a noble way to die.

Only Islamic extremists are in favor of killing and bombing. Most Muslims are just like you and me. So sad that we associate all of Islam with the fundamentalist nut cases.

steven said...

hey reya, i spend time once or twice a week at a nearby cemetery. it's a place where my thoughts have the opportunity to gather and then they can talk to each other and sometimes even become one. there's a river runs by it and beautiful big old trees. i go there in all sorts of weather because the weather doesn't bother anyone else there so i don't let it bother me. the best deaths come at the end of a life well-lived. steven

Reya Mellicker said...

Steven, I too noticed the trees in the cemetery especially, providing nice shade. They seemed protective, but maybe I'm making that up.

Indie.Tea said...

I concur. A senseless death is accidental, so to speak...someone that is unprepared, who's life has many odds and ends (young children comes to mind).

Annika Lundkvist said...

I am a newly frequent reader of your posts and revel in how truly synchronistic they are. Shalom!