The air was thick yesterday at Gettysburg. It was a rainy, chilly day – maybe that contributed to the depth in the breeze or maybe not. Maybe just maybe it feels this way every day on the battlefield. After all, this farm pasture saw young and old men fall and take their last breaths. Terrified but out of duty, they fell and gave their all. This hollowed little town saw so much death, pain and blood.
Bus ride, museum ticket and movie – I was a tourist in my backyard. However, those things really did not do this battleground, now graveyard, justice. I learned so many facts and figures yesterday in my mini trip to this historic site. Though truly fascinating, these facts did not take away from the weightiness of the death. It was all around us.
Rows of nameless stones lined the cemetery – buried with a number and no name. Chills. These nubs of white stones meant something to somebody. They represented a life, snuffed out too soon. Unidentified or just forgotten? I guess we will never know.
The picture of Abraham Lincoln standing in the middle of that eerie, lifeless cemetery is not only humbling, it’s heroic. It birthed a feeling of longing inside me – for a leader who cares about lives. Someone who cares about the ultimate sacrifice.
I could not help but think back to high school senior year of speech class to Robert Ingersoll’s solemn words from a speech addressed to the Memorial Day audience in 1866 in Dresden, New York:
“These heroes are dead. They died for liberty—they died for us. They are at rest. They sleep in the land they made free, under the flag they rendered stainless, under the solemn pines, the sad hemlocks, the tearful willows, the embracing vines. They sleep beneath the shadows of the clouds, careless alike of sunshine or storm, each in the windowless palace of rest. Earth may run red with other wars—they are at peace. In the midst of battles, in the roar of conflict, they found the serenity of death.”
These words, now etched into my memory, I recited in my head, walking through this solemn battleground. Relics of a past life and time. Dairies of brave men to their children, mothers and their wives. Eloquent words now encased in a shrine of remembrance. Words once thought in a living, breathing mind – now read, cherished and echoing in a new generation.
I will forever remember this tour, this place. Tracing steps and paths of the past are significant. They make you realize the men that have sacrificed all – for some. America was birthed out of passion, sweat and blood lest we ever forget. And, the men and women who place their bodies, just flesh and blood houses, in the face of deep evil daily should be praised and respected.