For each death, a hole in the world

This is something I wrote for Memorial Day 2005 and I run it every year:

Soldiers are not chunks of identical clay; each of them has a story, their own reasons for being caught in a war.

Brave? Maybe – sometimes, under some conditions. Scared, mostly. The younger they are, the more likely their presence had to do with restlessness, cockiness. The need to be part of a winning team, the desire to even a score. Kick ass, take names. Kill them all, let God sort them out.

The older they are, the more realistic they are. This was a steady paycheck, or a way to supplement the one they already had. When they join, it’s with their eyes on the future benefit. When they’re in the middle of a war, they think only of surviving the next five minutes. Please, God, please. Let me see my family again.

And when they die in the war, each death leaves a hole in the world. It’s important to remember that, to not see them as a monolithic casualty list or as an acceptable loss.

No loss is acceptable. Ask the parents, the spouses, the children. They try. They tell themselves stories of nobility, sacrifice, a greater cause. They cover it up with the ritual rhetoric. But deep down, they must wonder.

Here is how to count the cost: In high school graduation pictures that will never be replaced with wedding pictures. In wedding rings that will never be worn smooth by years. By the daughters who will walk down the aisle with an uncle or brother instead of Dad. By the sons who will find themselves angry and lost, not understanding why. The children who will hear about their mother’s eyes, their father’s chin but won’t ever see themselves reflected in that face.

By the parents who now understand the quiet obscenity of outliving their own children.

Each and every one of these deaths left a hole in the world. That is why we count them.

They mattered.

Test results

The endocrinologist says my TSH level is still high, but lower than it was. So I’ll be on a trial run of synthetic thyroid, even though he says it’s “unlikely” that I’m going to actually feel better. The main purpose in treating it, he says, is for all the other problems low thyroid can cause, like cardiac problems. Whatever.


The older I get, the less patience I have with the intricate traditions of patriarchal religions. You want to tie yourself in knots over minutiae because you believe in a God that requires it? Well, I guess you have no other choice. Other than owning your own life and creating your own relationship with the universe, I mean.


I am supposed to believe there is such a thing as real competition in this country. I just got off the phone with Comcast, telling them I wanted only the bare minimum of services, reduced from what I currently have.

I keep going through this exercise, and I keep forgetting how Kafkaesque the whole thing is: By cutting off premium and HD channels, I can save (wait for it) $1.89 a month. Wow.

No one ever believes me when I tell them, either. Comcast just threw in a $15 a month credit and free HBO and Showtime if I keep the same service for $2 more. This is some crazy shit.

UPDATE: Hello to all the visitors from Shakesville. I’m really enjoying your comments on this.

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