|By Bob Weaver|
Robert Ingersoll spoke at the funeral of a child in the 1880s, saying, "Here in this world, where life and death are equal kings, all should be brave enough to meet what all have met."
"From the wondrous tree of life the buds and blossoms fall with ripened fruit, and in the common bed of earth patriarchs and babes sleep side by side."
"Why should we fear that which will come to all that is?"
Death is seldom welcomed with open arms.
Now, in the State of West Virginia, the obituary pages each week have the deaths of young people, most from decent families, that have prematurely died from the disease of addiction.
Those not so informed call them "druggies."
My first encounter with mortality was staring into the face of a small child whose body was brought to the Mt. Olive Church at Hur for a funeral service.
I was yet to have started school, but old enough to react, learning a little of the value of precious life. full-well that its' life was over.
Stump Funeral Home brought the white doeskin casket, barely three feet long, into the packed church, and placed it on the prayer bench, to have every member of the community pass by to stare in the child's lackluster face, to then be lowered to the earth a short distance away.few feet away.
Mother's wept openly and the men suffered nervous agitation.
Enlightenment came again in December, 1949, when my 5th grade classmate at Grantsville Grade School died quickly, struck by a car during noon recess while he was chasing a volleyball.
James Lowell "Butch" Strader was a handsome, bright young man, son of the Rev. George Strader, owner of Strader's Department Store and a member of the Board of Education.
Butch sat a few seats away in Wilma Stump's 5th grade class, right behind my friend Bobby Snider, who became a leading orthopedic surgeon in Billings, Montana, himself dying sooner than he should years later.
Butch, Bobby and myself became enthralled with books following Ms. Stump's frequent reading from the Hardy Boy's mystery stories.
Butch jumped over the cut-stone wall to get the ball, rolling across High Street, to be struck by a slow moving car driven by a Clarksburg drug salesman.
I remember the screams and the teachers running to the road.
Most vivid is the memory of Elva Yoak, returning the ball to the playground as Stump's came up the hill, siren screaming, loading his limp body into their ambulance and taking him to the Boling Clinic, the only medical facility in the county.
He suffered a crushed skull, they said, dying instantly. After an investigation, the salesman was not charged.
Bobby and I talked about Butch's death many times during our lunch hours, even after we moved across the river to Calhoun High.
Bobby lamented about the lack of health care and doctors in our rural county, often stopping at the Boling Clinic to enrich his desire to become a doctor.
Like all those about us, we questioned why our young friend had to be cut down so early in life, increasing our awareness that we too would someday walk through that mysterious veil.
Ingersoll continued to write about death, "If those who press and strain against our hearts could never die, perhaps that love would wither from the earth."
"May be a common faith treads from out the paths between our hearts the weeds of selfishness, and I should rather live and love where death is king ..."
Maybe that's what we failed to understand each time we have encountered death among the young - or the old.