Mass death is a tragedy and always significant: mass death or any death as a result of war can never be excused, whatever justification is made usually by those who directly or indirectly gave the orders. Yesterday’s global remembering of the “Great” War at its significant anniversary was a sombre reflection of the waste of war, its cruelty and its folly, and of the duty of care of leaders.
On a sad, rainy day, Remembrance Day and Armistice Day merged together to enable those who choose to reflect upon and remember the lives lost in war: to think about the nature of war and why it occurs, and to think about the nature and reason for death itself. The dignity shown and prominence given to the commemorative events for the one hundredth anniversary planned for years before proves there were many who honour and remember still those who died in the first World War, and all wars, and those they loved and knew who have left too.
How or why we die does not matter, it is the fact of its occurrence that does. Young men destined to die on a battlefield have died in wildfires or earthquakes, just as some of those who died on the Somme would have ended their lives early anyway. A wave of mass deaths whether in the Twin Towers, a 1916 battlefield or in a tsunami is significant as a human tragedy, certainly, and as a lesson, too, to those who remain, teaching perhaps about the folly of conflict, the importance of honouring life while it is there, and of the pre-eminence of nature. For the individual, the death is the gift of freedom and the certainty of new life – it is the start of a new journey. Every death teaches us something, if we choose to look.
Meanwhile, it is right to mourn and remember those who are gone, perhaps whom we loved, and those who died so long ago in war, to remember those who have left quietly, father, husband, child, wife or pet, but who are much missed: for each of them, the act of love will be balm to the soul, as it is to those who live on, for now.