Signs of Time


Frank Buckles is the last surviving American veteran of World War One.

Some time a few years ago I realized that I had not met nor scene a WWI vet in a long, long time. In fact, my only memory of WWI vets was as a child, Independence Day, packed into the Paris Tabernacle in the heat with a mass of respirating bodies and sun blasting in and no air conditioning or even fans and having to sing patriotic songs and, amazingly, not dying of heatstroke. Up on the stand, local veterans, including WWI vets in their light green uniforms, their heads dropping, their bodies falling, sitting and nodding in the immense heat. In retrospect, I'm surprised I never saw one of those ancient men expire during that shindig. It was a sweat and CO2 factory.

But it didn't hit me until adulthood that the ancient men of my childhood would not be the ancient men of my adulthood. Every single one of those old vets is dead now, and WWII vets are starting to look as old as they did. And then it'll be my parents. And then it'll be me. And then I'll be gone.

One aspect of mortality that I find fascinating is how I am constantly being surprised when reminded that I am mortal.

What evidences of the March of Time have caught you off guard?

(Besides that one last Easter Egg discovered in September, I mean.)


  1. I didn't realize that the end of that generation, the generation who fought the war to end all wars, had come upon us. This has me in a place of interesting contemplation.

    A little while back we conversed on the March of Time and how it puts us all in a pecular state. I think it can be summed up in this statement about progress: "progress was good once but it's gone too far."

    When I was a kid, I spent much of my time wishing for some future date. As school would begin a new year, signaling the end of summer, I would express my wish that it was Christmas time. My father told me that I should not wish my life away. I cannot tell you how many times he told me this.

    Now, as a parent, I'm doing the same with my children. My daughter has an incredible love for the Christmas season and has been wishing its onset closer. The wisdom of the aged seems wasted on the youth and sometimes the effort to counsel seems wasted breath.

  2. I was doing research for a talk this weekend and looked up several conference talks that I vividly remember and thought were 'recent'. They were all about 10 years old. It was also weird reconnecting with a family from my mission and realizing that their 12 and 14 year olds are now 21 and 23.

    Apropos of the topic, we just watched the movie Gallipoli and I think it's highly appropriate for Veteran's Day. If you want to feel truly depressed about humanity you could combine that in a double showing with All Quiet on the Western Front. "War to end all wars indeed"

  3. .

    What a mess it was....

    I had a similar GC experience. An Elder-Oaks talk on angels I often site as "recent" it about ten years old now too. The worst part is, the talks from 2002-2004 are still the ones I remember best.

    Time for a longer commute!

    Because apparently I waste my life less when I do what appears to be a waste....

  4. Definitely for me it's gray hair and wrinkle lines on my face.

    But I laughed when I read the comments about conference talks also. I'm in the same boat-- those talks from when I was in college, it's like I can recite them in the same voice tone as the speakers, and it feels like yesterday.

    Sigh, so is this what getting old feels like? Reminiscing all of the time instead of doing my dishes?

  5. WARNING: This bit of trivia contributes nothing to this discussion.

    I've occasionally had the fleeting thought that, were I to create a trivia game, the questions would be more complicated in their phrasing than difficult in their answerability. One relevant example:

    On Dec 19 1959, Walter William, the last living Civil War veteran, died at 117 years old. Which side did he fight on?

    See, it seems like a hard question at first, but then you get to the end and realize you have a 50-50 shot--better than that, if you use Wikipedia.