Death and Love

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On November 11, 1917, 117,465 men were dead. Multiply that by two and you get 234,930 mothers and fathers left alone. Multiply 117,465 by three by five by fifteen and you get the lifelines lost the number of ghostly bullets that left holes in 1,761,975 hearts. And they all went to funerals that year where comrades with black-painted faces shot guns in tribute to remember the wandering souls that littered the sky on that rainy day. 1,761,975 bowed heads and black umbrellas and 13,589,405 crumpled tissues and downcast eyes and endless nights of wide eyes staring into the ceiling, searching for that piece, that one glassy jigsaw puzzle piece that shattered on November 11 and never reappeared. The saddest thing in the world is not death. It is loneliness.

And I can't tell you how many people have marched into a hopeless battle and I can't tell you how many lonely mothers spent a year quietly seeking the empty bones of dead husbands and daughters and sons and fathers and brothers and sisters. But I can tell you that people don't go to funerals to let the dead linger into the world of the living. These people have passed and their butterfly caccoon bodies are devoid of guts and skeletons and nerve endings and emotion and all that makes us human. I can tell you that people go to funerals to delay the inevitable loneliness because perhaps if we send them off, if we recount stories of their youth and everlasting charm they will come back and stitch patterns of love into our dying prune hearts.

And I'm telling you, people cry at funerals because of the loneliness.

Death is not sad. Death is empty.

Loneliness is heartbreaking.

And I can't tell you that everything will be fine, your heart will repair itself, your lungs with expand again. But I can tell you that I'm sorry and I love you.

I don't know you. I don't know those soldier's mothers I know approximately 50 people and only 20 of them really well but I do love you. And maybe you hate me because I'm American and you're just a boy, just a breakable bird boy and I've left you alone because I killed your family one night when you couldn't even see the stars but you could see the glow of the explosion that left them all mangled and cold turkey dead. And I've left you no choice I've practically handed you the hatred that you carry like logs along your small, curving spine.

And I'm sorrysorrysorry.

I'm sorry that I've left you alone and I'm sorry that I did it with a smiling ballot slip and I'm sorry that I still know my parents. That I can still watch their feathery skin sag with age and my father now has laugh lines around his foggy blue eyes. And my brother just started middle school and he's worried about being bullied and I watched the sunrise with him the other day just because.

I'm sorry that you'll never do that. Sorry that your mother died, or your father your brother your sister your husband your wife your fiance. Your smiling girl who you never told how much you love her. You love her.

I am imperfect and selfish and dying but I love you, with the chapped lips no one will kiss and I love you, with the empty heart and you without hair and the medical diagnosis that made your mother cry but tell her I love her too. And no, I do not love you, with the empty shell body with the dead heart and the dead eyes because you are gone but when you're in heaven or hell or paradise or the universe, tell the people who hold on to you that I love them.

I love the small people who live their life quietly and never amount to much more than a paycheck because you are the collaborative creation of every person on this planet and I think that is amazing and the most beautiful thing a person can ever know. So I love you. And I hope that love will be enough.

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