Sunday, March 04, 2007

More than gods and generals

As he lay dying just beyond the stone wall at Gettysburg, Confederate Gen. Lewis "Lo" Armistead thought not about his wounds. It mattered not that he was slipping into the great unknown.

All Armistead wanted was to see his friend, Union Gen. Winfield Scott Hancock.

The two had been friends before the war. They were quartermasters together in California. Armistead once said "May God strike me dead" before he would raise a gun against Hancock.

Armistead asked about his friend that July day in Pennsylvania. Told that Hancock, too, had been wounded, Armistead reportedly cried, "No! Not us both!"

He died two days later.

The scene is portrayed in Ron Maxwell's 1993 film "Gettysburg." The original source was Michael Shaara's prize-winning novel "The Killer Angels." Read that scene and fail to be moved and you have my vote as the modern day Ebenezer.

I thought about that moment this morning in the quiet hours just after dawn. A few hours later, I called Dean, spent the evening with Drew and J.M., talked to Dewayne on the phone, made plans to meet with Mr. D and Mr. H later today for brunch and thought a few minutes about all the friends who have made this journey so much fun.

Not all of them come around anymore. That's OK. Life takes its twists and turns.

I've been blessed beyond what I deserve. When the skies above my head were darkest, in 2003 and twice last year, they were there.

The kindness came in small ways, through telephone calls, visits for the hell of it, messages on MySpace and silly songs sung at all hours. It showed up in a thousand ways --- unexpected invitations, a joke told in the afternoon, Thursday get togethers, sharing laughter cause it hurt too much to cry.

Thomas Magnum says that when a person is gone, the only thing that remains to show his worth is his friends. That's the only measurement by which I will ever be considered wealthy.

And it's the one of which I am most proud.

Pardon me if my eyes well up at thoughts of Armistead dying in the grass at Gettysburg. But you don't have to look away or be embarrassed.

The tears are for much more than gods and generals.

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