My son’s not a six-footer anymore. After too many parachute jumps with the 75th Ranger Regiment, medics told him his skeleton has compressed by a half inch, and that he’s not getting it back. It probably didn’t do his skeleton (or brain stem) any good to get blasted off a ladder by an improvised bomb, either. Even the routine and repetitive discharge of Army weaponry at the firing range can result in cumulative concussions that complicate questions of free will and moral accountability.
The burdens of defending our freedoms and our country’s strategic interests have never been equally or fairly distributed. But he came home reasonably intact and upright, and is having a great life now as an entrepreneur, inventor, husband and fierce soccer dad on the grassy battlefields of California.
His cousin Jake wasn’t as fortunate. Jake’s mom and dad got his body back from Syria in May. I don’t know much about how he died, but thanks to a remarkably meaty, substantial funeral – and thanks to long talks with his comrades at the wake – I know how he lived.
Not that Jacob Klipsch was ever a stranger to me. I remember him as a freakishly intelligent child. He talked with smart adults all day and I’m not sure he ever learned baby talk. He was so big and so articulate that most people assumed he was much older.
We got back in touch after the invention of email chat rooms. His was a restless intellect. He had not paused from reading broadly and thinking deeply. It was never a superficial conversation with Jacob.
He was at least agnostic, maybe an atheist then. Not a sneering, dismissive secular humanist like I was at that age, but rather a sincerely unconvinced pagan. He wasn’t going to pretend he believed, if he didn’t.
He knew of ancient “god-slaughter” cults with suspicious similarities to Christianity, and was conversant in the Gnostic claims of Roman hanky-panky in the selection of the biblical canon. I thought he was mistaken, but too smart and inquisitive to stay wrong. He was young, and had plenty of time to sort it all out.
But he was dead by age 36. I felt some panic when I heard he had died, and guilt. Throughout his lengthy funeral, I thought that despite all his virtues and selfless deeds, I’d have to bet he is probably roasting in Hell now, and from now on. We had let the clock run out on Jacob.
But it’s not our clock.
The final speaker at the funeral mentioned in passing that Jake tried to take communion last Christmas at an ancient Syrian church near the front lines. Anybody sitting behind me at the funeral may have been startled to see my head snap up sharply. It was the only thing I heard all morning that actually matters anymore.
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SOURCE: One News Now, Bart Stinson