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Never forget

By Robert Owens
web posted June 15, 2009

How are we to make it through the tumultuous times ahead?  How we to keep our heads as so many around us are losing theirs?  How will we survive the disintegration of the political, economic and social structures we have known?  The chaos and despair which accompany the fall of empire do not always engulf a society as the levers of imperial power slip from a weakened grasp.  Some declines and falls are more squishy than crashy.  Gibbon wrote of the decline and fall of Rome while Churchill's life served as the bookends for the decline and flop of the British.  From Rule Britannia to Rue Britannia some of us are old enough and the descent was fast enough to remember waking up in a world where the sun never set on the British Empire.  Where a nation of enterprising clerks ruled one quarter of the earth's surface and  a quarter of its population.  Then almost overnight this centuries old dominion which had conquered sub-continents and cast its people and its language out to the four corners of the globe sank into a smallish country living on the dole.  Many who watch in dismay as our beloved Republic descends into the quota loving disparity and economic stagnation of a politically-correct debt encumbered future stand at the edge of the abyss and wonder, "How will we live when all that we have known of life has changed?"

Last night I walked into a rehabilitated 18th century home thinking I was about to experience a mystery murder party thrown by friends.  I had been a reluctant participant because I was anxious to hit the road and go visit the two most precocious and precious grandchildren with which a much loved son and a wonderful daughter-in-love ever blessed a former gang-banging rock-n-roll monster.  I was set to smile and participate though in my head I was already several hundred miles down the road.  It was like stopping to see the spot where gravity doesn't work quite right when you're on the way to the Smithsonian.  But as I've mentioned before I have the best wife in the whole world and she wanted to go so I was prepared to not only attend but to partake and enjoy because she wanted to go and I always want to be a part of anything that gives her joy.

That's the set-up.  I walk into the house and when I saw people I knew I wasn't surprised even though they were part of my closest circle of friends the one that orbits like Mercury right next to my heart and not part of the slightly more remote circle occupied by the people who owned the home and were ostensibly holding the mystery murder party.  When these near-and-dear ones shouted, sang and said "Happy Birthday" I wasn't surprised since my birthday is coming soon and they all knew we were leaving in the morning.  Besides even though I had never seen any of them in this outer orbit of relationship I thought since they were locals they must have been invited to the mystery party.  But when my son and daughter by addition, whom I love as if they were my own came into the room and joined the chorus of "Happy Birthday" I realized the mystery was much deeper than I had ever imagined.

As the night progressed I learned by beloved wife had organized and orchestrated the most complete surprise and the most joyous occasion of my life next to marrying her.  In league with my friends and family she had engineered a night of fellowship and fun as I played the part of a bouncer at the Four Deuces speakeasy while people dropped like flies and the Inspector sought to solve the crime.  Home-made baked ziti, Italian gravy, meatballs and plenty of sweets rounded me and the night into a splash of love and companionship that will glow in my memory till I walk across that river and sit at the feet of my savior and say, "Thanks for a better life than I deserved."

With a lump in my throat, a skip in my step and warmth in my heart I want to share with all those who stand like me swaying on the edge, looking with a clear vision at the momentous days in which we live.  It is our friends and our family that will see us through.  It is the moments of shared humanity in the midst of a cold and indifferent world that add meaning.  Yes, it is good to see the big picture and yes, it is good to reach out our hands and attempt to hold back the night but we must never lose sight of the love that gives it meaning.  Never let the depth of the abyss make us forget that mountains still have peaks, that day follows night and that joy comes in the morning.  Thank you my friends for helping me remember and thank you my wife for never letting me forget. ESR

Dr. Robert Owens teaches History, Political Science, Religion, and Leadership for Southside Virginia Community CollegeContact Dr. Owens. © 2009 Robert R. Owens. Dr. Owens is available for speaking engagements.


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