Today on the 70th Anniversary of D-Day I remember all of those who fought and died on this day. I think about their dance and about the dance that each person they knew and loved danced on that day. I dance with all of them today.
The spiritual ritual of confronting the end of your life and those of people you love – spouse, child, the solider next to you – is unique.
I have never served in combat. I cannot claim therefore to know what that Dance might have been like 70 years ago. There are though a number of first-hand accounts in the news today that give a small glimpse into the minds of soldiers who remember that day. The New York Times carries a number of first hand recollections. A list of other similar stories is here.
Despite the focus that combat seems to bring to the mind, there is a common theme in many of the stories of awareness of love and life. It may have happened in the preparation. It may have been flashes on the journey. It definitely followed them and their families the rest of their lives.
A critic of the show, The Actual Dance, once complained about the central metaphor of the show and asked: “[T]he man gurgling in his own blood after a street corner holdup goes bad – is he dancing? The Sudanese woman dying in childbirth a hundred miles away from a medical facility – is she dancing?" I would add to those questions: “The soldier storming Omaha Beach 70 years ago who is shot dead – is he dancing?”
The answer is in this question: “Do we not all sense our own mortality and engage the world as something precious and true, even in the worst of circumstances.” As I have said before, “An instant is a lifetime in the Universe.” To say that there is “beauty and dignity” is to say that the discovery of the beauty and dignity is our destination. The place that we all can find and once there understand that “[t]he Actual Dance is the ultimate consummation of our love.” Perhaps I should have written the line with: “Love.”
So yes, Soldiers Dance. Even and perhaps especially on D-Day they danced. Their families and buddies and perhaps all of us whose lives have been made free as the result of their incredible service and sacrifice dance with and for them in our unique way as we remember, thank, grieve and give them a place of honor in hearts.