Thursday, March 30, 2006

Thunder in the Sky

Yesterday, Pte. Robert Costall of the Princess Patricia's Canadian Light Infantry's quick reaction force was killed in a pitched battle northwest of Kandahar.

In the dusty hills and desert wadis of far Afghanistan.

He was from Thunder Bay.
He was 22.

The Canadian military world is a small one.
When one falls, all grieve.

The following was written for the first four casualties in the Afghanistan campaign, but the grief bites deep for them all.

The Four

We brought them home
in an April springtime
with all the deliberate honour
and gentle dignity
they so deserved.

Guarded by their brothers'
grace and grief
and all the subtle symbols
of our pride.

For they were bright and brave and beautiful,
and young and fierce,
and sweet.


Savannah Jordan said...

"Hear O Isreal, the Lord thy God is One."

And, we are One in him.

The loss of any affects us all. Grief is universal.

My thoughts are with you.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Savannah.

I find as I get older that I am not as susceptible to the emotional version of chaos theory - any man's death diminishes me thing - not on a conscious level.
I find it necessary to be selective in the areas of human loss and tragedy - but a soldier's sacrifice is one I cannot evade.

Carla said...

Heartbreakingly beautiful.

Sandra Ruttan said...

A good friend of mine has a husband who's over there right now. He's a medical officer, so not so likely to die in a firefight, but still - the stress, the fear.

A moving tribute Bernita. Thanks for that post. Really, it's so sad and unfortunate.

kmfrontain said...

I come from a military family, and I've been in the military. The thought of anyone going off to a hostile area of the world is not easy for me. It's very personal and real. And it's worse when you think about your children possibly ending up in the military as well some day. I feel for everyone that knows this young man. It's a hard thing.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Carla, Sandra.

Three of mine have proudly worn that uniform.
Two still do.
One has already done a tour there, the other is just back from Pakistan.
One accepts the possibility when they sign - but you still pray and fear.

Bernita said...

We should not forget, though, KM, that policemen and firemen face the same "farewell of arrows."

Erik Ivan James said...

I served for others. Yours now serve for me. God bless them.

Ric said...

Beautiful Tribute, Bernita.

Thanks for sharing.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Erik.
They keep the faith.
God keep them.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Ric.
The heart is awkward.
I don't weep for much, but I do for such as these.

James Goodman said...

Touching words, Bernita. My thoughts and condolences go out to those who grieve for this fallen soldier.

Ballpoint Wren said...

So young. Canadian or not, Savannah's right: the loss of any affects us all.

I can't write poetry as well as you, Bernita, so I'll steal something:

We are the Dead. Short days ago / We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, / Loved and were loved, and now we lie / In Flanders fields.

May we never forget.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Wren and James.

I never miss a Remembrance Day.
I cannot.
One of the companion pieces to In Flanders Fields is this:

"They grow not old - as we who are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them."

Anonymous said...

I offered them a quiet moment.

Rick said...

I bow my head for them.

Bernita said...

I try to not forget it is such as these who make my quiet moments possible, who ensure that I can plan my garden without wondering if it will be blown to hell tomorrow, and that if I bow my head it is by my choice and not another's.

Lady M said...

My father is a civillian over there right now. And two of our guys are over there on duty. We worry a lot. I worry.

And this brought tears to my eyes...

B did you write this?

Very nice - smooth - and the cadence leaves you whispering it slowly - even if only in your mind.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Lady M.
You're a very sensitive reader.

You know then that constant braced alert at the back of the mind.
The breath taken before clicking on the news, and the moment of stillness when the doorbell rings.

Yes, it's mine. I try not to quote without attribution of some kind.

Dennie McDonald said...

What a great tribute.

Carla said...

The comment thread is reminding me of Dorothy Parker's poem 'Penelope'.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Dennie.

I see what you mean, Carla.

I shall give you another, somewhat asymetrical:

Then Re-Harakhte said:
Let Set be given unto me, to dwell with me and be my son. He shall thunder in the sky and be feared.

- Chester Beatty papyrus
The Judging of Horus and Set.

For The Trees said...

I served. I remember all too well. I thank you for your wonderful words for all those who have gone before.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Forrest.
There can never be enough wonderful words for those who serve or have served, in my extremely humble opinion.
This one so resembles my son - even to the hands.

alexandra said...

I currently have two brother's serving in Iraq and coming from a military background, I understand fully. The heartbreak never goes away. :-(

Bernita said...

One learns a certain form of endurance

Bonnie Calhoun said...

That was written from your heart...very profound, and very moving. When a soul departs we are all diminished. I will say a prayer for the family of this young man who died so bravely.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Bonnie.

R.J. Baker said...

Our losses mount, the young go off to die, it seems so senseless as it has since Cain and Able. Why is war so inescapable?

A good friend of mine's son just joined the US Army, I've known the kid since he was 2. I fear for him and our country as Korea and Iran posture and the sabres rattle...

Bernita said...

War is inescapable, I think, R.J., because people are.

Lady M said...

B - you have a book cover for an imaginary book :P

I went on a creative tear today - and had a blast... So now you're a famous author.

Your cover is on the blog - Hope you don't mind.

Lady M

Bernita said...

Lady Mischief.

Shesawriter said...

Thoughts and prayers are with you. Wonderful words, Bernita.



Bonnie Calhoun said...

Lady M...the cover for Bernita was ...OK....but the covers for every one else were superb!

Let's see something more dramatic for Bernita, than leaves....Think Damie and John...think time travel....think Bernita is awesome...think....give me a WOW factor!

Lisa Hunter said...

Lovely poem. I wish the people who send soldiers to war were always as thoughtful as you about what the sacrifice of a life really means.

Bernita said...

Thank you, Lisa.
I hope you got my thank-you e-mail.

Actually, I believe they do - it's one of the terrible burdens of command.
Those of us who do not have that responsibility unfortunately tend to demonize those who do.