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Speaking to the Dead

I rail on about politics elsewhere, so this post puts aside the political brutalities of war in order to talk about something that always revolves around it. Death and camaraderie.

Consider the following video, which although filmed over a year ago, just recently went viral:

A bit of the back-story behind this can be found here.

I was profoundly moved by this video. Those who know me know that that’s no small feat. Suffice it to say, I’m not one to be overly maudlin or sentimental about much at all. “Stoic” is a word I would use to describe myself. Friends and family may have other words, but “emotional” wouldn’t be one of them.

There is little in the world that can explain or compare what it is like to belong to a band of brothers. There is nothing in the world that can explain what it is like to be baptized by fire and sharing that experience with your brothers.

No book I’ve read or movie I’ve seen has ever done it the experience justice.

Certainly no words I type here will get the job done either. It’s not an experience that can be translated. It’s not even an experience that can really be talked about…even with your fellow brothers.

Oh, it might be bandied about a bit when the alcohol flows. It’s touched upon. The outer perimeter of the topic is probed. But ultimately, it’s just something that’s left unsaid.

Unsaid is better.

Unsaid honors the dead better than words, because words are too imprecise. Too imperfect. Words intrude. They alter. They disturb. To be perfectly blunt, words push at the bonds of brotherhood. You cannot trust words in these situations because words can betray you. They have the power to shine a light on a weakness you’d rather not show, and would rather not see in others.

But, here we have men grieving as one. No words. Just raw, visceral emotion.

This is how brothers speak to their dead.

But, more importantly, this is how brothers speak to each other about their dead.

One Gravestone, Two Epitaphs

Found on an ornate grave in Holly Springs, Mississippi*:

William Henry Coxe
Born: Jan 1, 1824
Died: Sep 30, 1865

Generous and confiding in his disposition: Sincere and ardent in his feelings, he was a devoted husband, father and brother: An unfaltering friend: A kind and indulgent master. Loved most by those who knew him best. He died without an enemy, and his untimely grave was moistened by many a tear.

Mathew James Coxe
Born: Nov 27, 1819
Died: Nov 7, 1886

Modest and retiring in his manner. Only those who knew him best could appreciate his superior mental aullure and literary attainments. Always the model gentleman and true Christian. He gave cause of offense to none. His companionship was genial, his friendship steadfast and without allay and his affection for his kindred fervent and tender.

*Copied here as written, punctuation and all.