Words Before the Battle

Dearest Rachel –

Last night’s dream, as far as I can recall, appeared to have me in the role of Neville Longbottom, giving a St. Crispian’s style speech before the Battle of Hogwarts. Most of what I can remember is starting from the top of a table in the Great Hall, and continuing to move up to a higher position in order to address more and more people who had assembled, until I was standing on the roof of the castle, calling out to everyone.

I think I referenced some thing that Harry had told ‘me’ at some point in the past about the things that we knew that Voldemort didn’t understand; in fact, I may even have name-checked Sun Tzu about knowing your enemy, and how we had a leg up on him and his minions in this way (hey, I am – or was – a seventh year in this scenario). In keeping with the fact that He-Who-Must-Not-Be-Named was unable to understand the concept of love, I told everybody to find someone they cared about, and hug them beforehand. If nothing else, it was entirely possible that this moment would be the last chance to do so.

It’s the one thing that I’m never quite sure should be stated before battle; the fact that not everybody returns safely, or at all. Anything and everything else that could be said before such confrontation would be likely to encourage all and sundry to fight – reminding them of who and what they’re fighting for, what might happen if the enemies win, why our side is that of the right and just, and therefore to be defended with blood and treasure – but to say “some of us will die,” though undeniably true, is a line that gives pause, and makes cowards of so many.

There are very few ways to die that are not fearful, and even those who claim to have no fear of death itself would be lying if they were to say they looked forward to the means. Injury, especially inflicted intentionally, seems an awful way to go (although I can think of plenty of ways that scare me outside of combat, too). Be it the thousand various sword cuts meted by various opponents as they pass toward other targets, being run through with a lance or other such object, or being overwhelmed by a horde of enemies and being essentially beaten to death; none of these seem remotely pleasant. Worse yet, you’re left with no idea whether you’ve won or not; indeed, since we tend to project our experiences on others, we would assume our comrades would be every bit as overrun as we are in that final, desperate moment as we struggle vainly to survive. It’s a terrifying thought, to be suffering this final personal defeat, and be forced to assume that those on your side were enduring the same thing.

What little comfort that could be taken in such a situation would be in dragging as many opponents with you to the hereafter. If you could sell your life for a sufficiently dear price, perhaps others could be saved, and possibly even the battle (even the war, if one dreams big enough) could be won. This is a moment I can’t relate to, when you’re filled with enough adrenaline to be able to ignore the pain of so many slashes inflicted upon you in utter hatred, in order to inflict something similar – or worse – on someone else, someone deserving of it because ‘they attacked us.’

This is the sort of thing I can only picture as a last resort; I admit to having been made perhaps too soft by time and circumstance to wish for a death in this manner. Yes, those who die victorious are covered in glory and honor for it, but are they even aware of it? Do they know, and more importantly, do they care? The posthumous honors will not be collected by them, but by their loved ones; they know nothing of them – or what they do know is only in the same manner that you know about any of these letters I’ve been sending to you all these many days.

I suppose this makes me sound a bit like John Lennon, who after leaving the Beatles, wrote his most beautiful-sounding masterpiece, where he imagined a world where there was “nothing to kill or die for.” Certainly, for my part, I do not wish to strap on sword or wand, nor pistol or rifle, for the sake of using it on a fellow man, ever.

And yet, I realize there are those who do, for one reason or another. To be sure, some have honorable motives – we call them soldiers, serving in the ostensible defense of our country. But that’s supposed to be the thing; it’s a matter of defense. Even as they are trained in the use of the many weapons in our national arsenal, they understand that they are meant to be used to defend, rather than attack.

All of which points to those on the other side of the battlefield. These are those who are spoiling for a fight, for reasons unknown and unfathomable to us, and no amount of imagination on some idealistic songwriter’s part is ever going to be able to change that, no matter how hard he might try. Just because we may not wish to fight does not dissuade those who violently oppose us, and thus, it behooves us to prepare for that possibility. Even if it’s something as relatively insignificant as some thief wanting to get his hands on whatever stuff we may have stored in our house, we (theoretically, at least) have the right and duty to defend ourselves from that. So much more so, when it’s an army bearing down upon us.

It may never come to any of that, honey – I certainly hope not. But I also certainly hope that, if it does, I can rise to the occasion, rather than cowering under the banquet table. It’s not like I wouldn’t be found there, after all – might as well make my presence known, and my motions count, for the sake of those around me that I hold dear. And really, for all the supposed nobility of “nothing to kill or die for,” the fact remains that we all die sometime – why not make it for something?

Wow; that’s a lot to take in from an otherwise meaningless dream, and something to think about as the day goes on. Have to admit, the crash of battle – especially a victorious one – is preferable to another day in the salt mines.

Then again, we need salt, too.

But before that turns into another long tangent, I’ll just close this with the usual requests. Keep an eye on us, honey, and wish us luck; we’re going to need it.

Published by randy@letters-to-rachel.memorial

I am Rachel's husband. Was. I'm still trying to deal with it. I probably always will be.

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