Tuesday, January 08, 2008

The Major's Epitaph

When I lost my job in October of 2005, I subscribed to the Media Bistro Web site mostly for their job listings, but also for their daily newsletter which aggregates the leading news of the media and publishing industries. I still receive and scan it every day. Yesterday's edition had this as the third item down, under NBC's snit over the Golden Globes and CBS's Morning Show revamp:

In Blog, a Military Man Writes About His Own Death (NYT)
Andrew Olmsted, a United States Army major who wrote an online blog for The Rocky Mountain News, prepared for the possibility of his death by writing a 3,000-word piece. "I'm dead," he wrote in July 2007 as he arrived in Iraq for an 18-month tour of duty. "But if you're reading this, you're not, so take a moment to enjoy that happy fact." Rocky Mountain News: "The news is devastating," said Rocky editor John Temple. "The major was a brave man who obviously thrived on sharing his experiences and thoughts on his blog. He provided a perspective on Iraq that would have been impossible for a journalist."

The headline alone is enough to stop me in my tracks. I immediately followed the link to the New York Times Web site. I have trusted this paper all of my adult life to give the news, though many will argue it has too liberal a slant, and has endured its share of controversy. So have all the other papers, so he who is without sin, cast the first stone. Then I read the blog entry. It made me want to read every word Major Olmsted ever posted. His strength, intelligence and wit are readily apparent. Though I never knew the man, I mourn his passing, and am reminded of the 3,000+ passings that have preceded his.

What strikes me most about his man is that he doesn't seem be blinded by his mission. He might have had misgivings or disagreements with the war in Iraq--I'm not sure, as I haven't yet read his other opinions. He also had an overarching sense of duty. That he is thoughtful and thought provoking is unquestionable. I am comforted by the fact that the good Major is at peace. I wish peace to his widow, friends and family. I wish peace to our nation and to our world. The poem below was left as a comment and tribute to Major Olmsted on one of the many blogs now carrying the story, and allowing comments.

"I give you this one thought to keep~
I am with you still, I do not sleep.
I am a thousand winds that blow,
I am the diamond glints on snow,
I am the sunlight on ripened grain,
I am the gentle autumn rain.
When you awaken in the morning's hush,
I am the swift, uplifting rush
of quiet birds in circled flight.
I am the soft stars that shine at night.
Do not think of me as gone~
I am with you still, in each new dawn."

Native American poem

It is a beautiful remembrance. I am not evolved enough as a person to accept this as an adequate substitute for the corporeal being of a person--their face, their smell, the sound of their voice, the feel of a hug. But it does remind me to quiet myself for a moment so that I might feel my loved one's spirit surrounding me.

To Major Olmsted, my father, USMC Staff Sergeant Charles R. Shields, my cousin Mike, USMC, all those who served and continue to serve, Thank You.



SOUL said...

i think i don't know what to say to that.

but happy tuesday :))

Jamie said...

I just read on soul's page that you have a cat named Chumley----OMG! I have a dog that is 12 named that, and i have never heard of anyone else, ever, naming their pet that! In fact, I thought my husband was off his rocker when he named our chow that! But anyway, it's nice to meet you, and I will now go and read your page, lol. :)

Jamie said...

That was beautiful rebecca.

Rebecca said...

Soul, I don't usually wax political, but I was just bowled over by this story. I believe it needs to be told and retold until we as a race fully understand the ramifications of making war. That said, in the short term anyway, I am not sure I have much hope...

Simon, Thank you for your kind words.

We inherited Chumley from a woman who was deeply involved in cat rescue. She died with around 2 dozen kitties in her possession. The Humane Society said that anyone who personally knew Joan Aubrey could come in and adopt one of her rescues no questions asked. Chumley and I chose each other, and he is my all time favorite cat.

Maria said...

This choked me up, mostly because I just came home from a friend's funeral and this poem was read for her at it. I thought it was lovely and I still find it lovely.

I didn't know it's origin.

And I agree with you. We, as a nation, as people do not fully understand the ramifications of making war. Sooner or later, it must hit home. At least...we can hope.

Maria said...

And, forgot to mention: I am a total New York Times junkie. We subscribe and I think it is hands down the best paper in the U.S.

SOUL said...

hey there..

now that is weird..
chumley cat and chumley dog..

things that make ya go hmmmmmm

and thanks for the explanation...
have a good day-

The World According To Me said...

Very powerful stuff.

I love that poem.

Bridget said...

Wow. That was beautiful. Very powerful. I can't imagine facing the real possibility of my own death and writing about it so poignantly.

SOUL said...

ok.. r... time to get to writin on here-- complacency can only last so long girl....
happy thursday

The Real Mother Hen said...

I have to be still and absorb the words silently.
I'm blown away.