A Life Well-Lived
by Ruth W.

I wrote this originally as a simple tribute to Archie, but it has been suggested that I post it here as a gesture of remembrance to all those lost in the chaos and dreadfulness of all wars...

 

The long, hard, bravely fought battle draws to its close on an unexpected smile... This cheerful, troubled, too-short life is over - twenty-six years of joy and pain, of confusion and clarity, rank folly and great wisdom, cool courage and stark panic, dignity and shame but most of all a life of passion, filled in every corner with the all-consuming lust for being which still hovers, loath to leave, lingering to the very end...

And now, as the light fades from ice-clear eyes, leaving them quietly gazing into Eternity, who is to say whether this has been a life well-lived...? Who can tell whether the summation of all the deeds in this existence from the cradle to the grave has been worth the powder...?

To the enemy it was a life of menace, of fey assault, not reduced by the unhomeric moments of panic and despair... for they only knew the sword slashing, and the pistol flashing, and the thunder of the well-filled, well-drilled guns, the years of faithful service part of the greater force, a work painted on a larger canvas. Not the solo action of the Hero, but worthy nonetheless, and never found truly wanting...

And what should a mother do but love her son, regardless of what she hears of him, however others speak his name in hushed tones and stare when she passes by? Her love is boundless, endless, blind, and will go on until Time itself ceases to be...

A father is less forgiving; cares more for the family crest, craves honour, and is unable to see his son as he once did... Yet there is a part of him even now looking for a reason, trying to understand... seeking some explanation which will surely take away the pain. And yet his love for his boy is undiminished...

Sisters have no shame... They either dote on siblings, or they do not. But where there is devotion it is born of blood and shared childhood, and the bond is hard as iron... Theirs is an enduring grief, a sorrow set in stone... No echoes of evil from a foreign shore will ever shatter this love or sever these ties...

Brothers bear the pain in silence. They think of him, and thoughts stray back to former days, but those times are gone, and so is he... and tears would fall if they remembered him too well... Best not...

Viewed from above, by those he served, his life was all enigma for how can a man so light, so easy, so winning, so droll a jester and a poet with no habit of discretion nor inclination to armshow can that man possibly burn the flames within of honour, loyalty, duty...? How can such a fool endure the crucible of war and stand shoulder-to-shoulder with men thrice harder than he...? Yet he did,and made better than good, and did it more kindly than many before or after, for the fire of purest love was in him for his King, his country and his ship, and for those he called his friends, and it was enough...

And what of the men who follow? Those whose lot it is to obey and to live or die at the whim of the man in command... Was he a good man? Was he fair? Was he prepared to do the things he asked of them? Did he treat them with respect and hear their needs? Did they feel safe with him?

Then he was one of them... What's more to say??

The trail of broken hearts goes on. Perhaps there are lovers, sweethearts, admirers from afar... good time girls who carry his token in a pocket, or a curl of his hair in a locket... or little girls he smiled at once and charmed forever...

And there is one who sits here still... has it been an hour? A day? A lifetime? Relives the pleasure and the pain of former days...the good and the bad, the ups and downs...the years together, and the years apart... Aches to take Time back and speak the words which must now remain unsaid... Longs to hold again to take into his arms the needing, bleeding body to cradle the frightened spirit - to clasp to his heart the other half of himself... Too late...

The gift is given. The giver, gone...

So time rolls on, ships sail away and wars end. Years go by the steps he took on Earth are lost, overgrown, vanished like sand prints in the tide... The moss on his grave springs and clings, and spreads to hide his `wounded name', and soon there is nothing left...Yet something of him lingers, in the hearts of those who have known the glow of his smile... And whether the life he lived was good or bad seems not to matter any more... He gave his all, was loved by many ... and did
very little harm...

Who can live a finer life than that...?