We often celebrate anniversary of one’s birth, but not the day of death. That is probably as it should be. Celebration, no; but commemorations, yes, emphatically, especially for one who meant much to us.
This past Saturday was the 50th anniversary of Winston Churchill death at age 90. In May and September of this year we will make the 70th VE and VJ days. I posted a version of this essay several years ago. It bears repeating.
Fill a glass with water, and dip your finger into it. Except among our loved ones and close friends, the void that most of us would leave in this world is similar to that left in the water when the finger is withdrawn. For some, it might be akin to the space the finger would leave when withdrawn from more viscous substances. Then there is the rare person who, for a time anyway, is indispensable. The day World War II ended in Europe, confirmed such a man.
Here is C. L. Sulzberger’s tribute to him (excerpted from The American Heritage History of World War II, p. 97):
Remember him, : pudgy and not very large but somehow massive and indomitable; baby-faced, with snub nose, square chin, rheumy eyes on occasion given to tears; a thwarted actor’s taste for clothes that would have looked ridiculous on a less splendid man. He wore the quaintest hats of anyone: tinted square bowlers; great flat sombreros squashed down on his head, naval officer’s caps rendered just slightly comic by the huge cigar protruding beneath the peak. On grave and critical occasions he sported highly practical Teddy-bear suits few grown men would dare to wear in public. He fancied oil painting, at which he was good, writing, at which he was excellent, and oratory, at which he was magnificent. His habits were somewhat owlish (a bird he faintly resembled), and he stayed up late at night, often working mornings in bed with a lap tray for his desk.
This was the man, blooded at Omdurman and Cuba, among the Pathans and the Boers, long before most of those he led were even born, who guided Britain to victory in World War II – and, one might add, who was the guiding spirit for the whole free world. For had Britain succumbed, as it had every logical reason to do in 1940, probably no successful coalition could have been formed.
“Never in the field of human conflict was so much owed by so many to so few”
Or to one.