My dad and I went to the viewing of a lady who used to be his neighbor in Loudoun County, where he lived in a kind of semi-rural enclave with about ten other families. He moved from there in 2003 and hasn’t seen much of the community, or what’s left of it, since then. The viewing was a typical occasion to remember the deceased and also to see people that he hadn’t seen in a long time.
At one point in the gathering, I looked over at him standing with some of the men from the old neighborhood. With their shocks of white hair and craggy countenances, I was reminded of nothing as much as a gathering of some old, wise eagles. And indeed, these are people who have soared far above the ordinary.
I think that for most of us, including myself, an end to civilization would be the end of me as as well. I am dependent on the complex infrastructure that we all use for food, shelter, water, clothing, security, services, and so on and so on. But for people like my parents and their neighbors, I don’t an end to all that would make a difference. They lived in a loosely-knit community that depended on each other. They knew how to raise animals and crops for food, to prepare and preserve them to eat. What one of them couldn’t do, there was someone in the neighborhood who could, whether it was welding or canning or pulling a recalcitrant calf out of a mother cow.
I think it is not coincidence that these people are, by and large, a part of the Greatest Generation, having weathered the Depression and World War II and come to home to raise families and to build a world power. On this Veteran’s Day, I salute them, those who served in the military, and those who also “stood and waited” and served thereby. They are passing rapidly from us, and I hope you will take the opportunity to recognize them for what they have done for all of us, if you know any of them, and to thank them for it. The eagles may have gathered in this life for the last time.