sitting on history’s past and present

Success is not final, failure is not fatal:
it is the courage to continue that counts.

Winston Churchill

(A German band marches through St Peter Port High Street, Guernsey. The island was occupied between June 1940 and May 1945)

Guernsey is a small island located in the southern reaches of the British Channel.
It is located closer to France than England and yet it is a British Island.

During the war, it was occupied by German forces for 5 long years.

I never knew that.

This afternoon, I’ve just gotten in from having gone to the movies…
I can’t tell you the last time I went to the movies…
I don’t think we had cell phones during my last movie outing…that’s how long its been.

And so obviously it had to be something really pretty big to get me back…

And yes, it was.

It was the movie I’d written about several weeks ago…The Darkest Hour.

There we sat in the vast theater with only a handful of other moviegoers on this grey,
dreary and most soggy Georgia day.
We sat poised to watch a film that we actually possessed hindsight over…
in that, we knew how it turned out…
In that, we knew, otherwise currently know, is that the good guys in the end actually win.

But here’s the thing, I don’t really think that those of us who sit on this side of history
can actually comprehend what it was like to sit on that side of history.

How can we?

There is a chasm, a divide that we cannot cross, cannot span…
we cannot live that which was their reality,
just as they could only imagine what would and could possibly be ours.

For them, imagining what our reality would be,
was not what our imagining of what their reality was.
They fretted for us…yet we on the other hand, just know of their eventual victory—
We don’t grasp the overwhelming magnitude of the weight they bore before that victory.

The black and white photographs, the written words, do not pass easily over the chasm of time,
as one might imagine, allowing us to share the adrenaline rush and stress-filled emotional
burdens suffered and bourn by those who went before…

The Darkest Hour did a commendable job offering those of us who possess the gift of
hindsight of that period of history’s successful ending…
offering us a ray of light shed upon the truly unbearable heaviness of the what was
the balance between life and death of Western Civilization.

Today, ‘that which was’ can look almost easy and nearly flawless.

Churchill bore a grave burden, a burden that the still motionless black and white
photographs often camouflage…
a burden of knowing what must be done versus the tightrope of the political dance.

We each owe him a debt of gratitude.

And yet during those dark days of that desperate time in humanity, there are many
souls to whom we today owe our deep gratitude…

Frank Falla is one such soul.

Mr. Falla was a journalist with the BBC who was arrested by the Nazis when they
discovered that he had been covertly sharing information of the German occupation
on his home island of Guernsey.

He was held in Naumburg Prison where he watched fellow prisoners die weekly from torture
and starvation.
A prison where he swapped his food rations for the stub of a pencil just to be able
to record the names of those who had suffered and died—
because he vowed that if he survived, he would not let those who died, do so in vain.

Following the war, Falla worked tirelessly to petition and then achieve
reparations for his reluctant fellow Guernsey prisoners as well as for the families
of those who did not survive.

Falla’s is the story of a quiet unsung hero, whose story has slowly come to light
on what is now a more national stage as his story is currently part of a new exhibition at
London’s Wiener Library–an exhibition about Guernsey’s own “gentle” journalist.

the following link is to the article about his story.

death, an expensive business…

“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo.
“So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times.
But that is not for them to decide.
All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.”

J.R.R. Tolkien

“I do not fear death.
I had been dead for billions and billions of years before I was born,
and had not suffered the slightest inconvenience from it.”

― Mark Twain

the-knight-death-and-the-devil(Albrecht Durer / Knight, Death and the Devil 1513)

Back around 1973, when I was more of a youngster than what I am now…
I remember finding a paperback book in a bookstore that I just had to have.

I think it was the cover that drew me in.
Ryan O’Neal and Tatum O’Neal sitting perched on a cutout of a crescent moon.

The book, Paper Moon, was actually the movie title based on the book
Addie Pray by Joe David Brown…it was simply renamed in 1973,
which is when Peter Bogdanovich directed the film.

The story, set in Depression era Alabama, is about an orphan named Addie
and a man named Moze who is a drifter and scam artist.
Moze who meets Addie following the burial of her mother, agrees for a fee,
to take Addie to relatives in Missouri.
With much of the underlining thought being that the drifter / conman
is actually the young girl’s biological father.
The story is about not only their actual journey to Missouri and the
myriad of scams they pull trying to make a fast buck,
but it is also a tale of the journey of self discovery.

I never did go see the movie but I imagine it was probably pretty funny as well as moving
as the storyline is one of humor as well as sorrow.

What I remember from the start of the book is that Moze had a particular scam
that would take him from town to town reading a local paper’s obituaries.
He would then make note of the names of those who were recently widowed, names
sounding as if they had money.
He’d next call upon the recently bereaved widows explaining that their recently
deceased husband had paid for a very expensive engraved bible but that the
deceased husband had only paid down a deposit on the bible and was
in turn to actually pay the balance when the bible was delivered.
Moze would then claim that he had come to deliver the bible as the widow
was now expected to pay the outstanding balance.

I think that was my first exposure to not only conmen,
but to the notion that death could
in turn equate to big business… as in a means of profit.

And I can now attest to the fact that, with both sound and knowledgable authority,
that there is not only big business running throughout all of life,
but that there is indeed big business to be found in death as well.

The Spector of death has certainly been hovering about my life as of late.
I think he hovers around all of us, that Spirit and Shadow of death,
but it’s just that we are more aware of his presence at certain times during our lives
more so than others.

If you had told me last Thursday that dad and I would have been chatting today
about Clemson’s big win over Alabama Monday night, I’d have told you that you were crazy.

From Tuesday, when Dad was sitting up eating chocolate covered doughnuts to Thursday,
when he was incoherent,
more out of it than not as his breathing was shallow and erratic at best…
I just knew our time had grown greatly limited.

(This is where I would insert a picture, but the picture is too sad to share)

The Hospice nurse had even come out to tell me those things they tell people
when Death is closer then we care for.

The idea of goodbyes was looming as it was a long hard day…
that is until late that evening when Dad seemed to come back to the present…
wanting a bowl of soup as he also wanted to know the times of Saturday’s NFL playoff games….

Go figure.

So my cousin, who is more brother than anything else, told me after our Thursday’s scare
that it would probably be a good idea if he and I made plans to met with those folks
whose jobs it is to deal with all things death.
Such as the funeral home, the cemetery, etc…..

Of which we did today.

Dying, death and burial is just as costly as living…if not even more so it seems.
And maybe that is because it comes in one huge lump at one single time as life and living is
spread out over time.
As in death, time becomes a bit of a moot point.

Yet during all of our planning and arranging…during all of the heavy decisions that we were wading through and deciding on…those sorts of things that one normally muses over briefly from time to time
preferring rather to linger only momentarily and casually…
I was struck by something other than the sheer costs behind funerals and burials…

Whereas we can prearrange, arrange and rearrange all we want here on this earth…
what with our lives and our dying…
It all pales in comparison when it comes to what is actually going on
once we take our last breath.

Maybe it’s because I have had Death’s presence so close to me these past several
months…such that I have found that the here and now is not nearly as important
as to what comes next.

There are so many folks who are concerned with living and living well,
that they run like hell,
far away from any thoughts of what comes after when the good living is all but over.

Maybe it’s because of a shallow and empty belief system,
maybe it’s due to fear of the unknown…
but no matter what the reason, as I am now all too aware,
the importance if found not in how we live…
but rather the importance is actually found in how we die.

That is not to say that our deaths are to be melodramatic or rehearsed…
as that is nearly impossible because for most, death is instantaneous…
both without time nor thought.

And it is for that very reason that the thought of death and dying must come long
before it is really all too late.

Because I know that when one takes one’s last breath…
something else entirely different begins.
And it is only up to each of us to decide what exactly that beginning is to be all about…

And if you think thoughts about God and Jesus,
Heaven and Hell,
life and living,
sin and death…
are all fodder for the superstitious or simply the mumbo jumbo of the sick and elderly…
you need to reconsider you thoughts….

Because there is something which is much more expensive waiting on you other than the cost
you will be leaving behind….for those who remain for when you die….

For it is truly a question of Life eternal
Death eternal

So will it be with the resurrection of the dead.
The body that is sown is perishable, it is raised imperishable;
it is sown in dishonor, it is raised in glory; it is sown in weakness,
it is raised in power; it is sown a natural body, it is raised a spiritual body.
If there is a natural body, there is also a spiritual body.

1 Corinthians 15:42-44