Veterans Day — My parents spent time with my grandfather today reminiscing about his time in the Navy. He enlisted (underage) during World War II and served aboard the USS San Francisco.
I’m living far from home, but I got to see some photographs from my parents’ visit. Here’s a picture of my grandfather shortly after he enlisted:
And here’s a picture my mother took of him today:
The contrast between these pictures reminded me of these lines from Shakespeare’s Sonnet 60:
Like as the waves make towards the pebbled shore,
So do our minutes hasten to their end;
Each changing place with that which goes before,
In sequent toil all forwards do contend.
Nativity, once in the main of light,
Crawls to maturity, wherewith being crown’d,
Crooked eclipses ‘gainst his glory fight,
And Time that gave doth now his gift confound.
Time doth transfix the flourish set on youth
And delves the parallels in beauty’s brow,
Feeds on the rarities of nature’s truth,
And nothing stands but for his scythe to mow . . .
And that reminded me of these questions Saint Maximilian Kolbe wrote in a letter to a German occupation official in 1940: (St. Kolbe gave up his life in 1941 to save another’s in Auschwitz.)
Respected Sir: I am writing in bed because I am somewhat ill . . . You and I will not live 100 or 200 years from now. All our actions will cease, even the most significant. Only one question will remain: Why and where shall we be? Shall we be happy? We are approaching that moment at every hour . . .
I am thankful for the words of Shakespeare and St. Kolbe. Such works of art, as Roger Scruton observes, bring “consolation in sorrow and affirmation in joy; [they show] human life to be worthwhile.”
I pray that my grandfather and all who approach the twilight of this life find consolation in truth-tellers like Shakespeare and saints like Kolbe, and in their ultimate consolation: our Lord, Jesus Christ.