Laughing at Death

From six calamities he will rescue you;
    in seven no harm will touch you.
In famine he will deliver you from death,
    and in battle from the stroke of the sword.
You will be protected from the lash of the tongue,
    and need not fear when destruction comes.
You will laugh at destruction and famine,
    and need not fear the wild animals.
For you will have a covenant with the stones of the field,
    and the wild animals will be at peace with you.

  • Job 5:19-23

Yet for your sake we face death all day long;
    we are considered as sheep to be slaughtered.

  • Psalm 44:22

“I will deliver this people from the power of the grave;
    I will redeem them from death.
Where, O death, are your plagues?
    Where, O grave, is your destruction?

  • Hosea 13:14

“Where, O death, is your victory?
    Where, O death, is your sting?”
The sting of death is sin, and the power of sin is the law. But thanks be to God! He gives us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ.

  • 1 Corinthians 15:55-57

It was Veterans’ Day nearly a month ago and I thought of something that caused me to pause.  With Pearl Harbor Day coming up later this week, I thought this might be a good time to mention this.

When you face an enemy in combat, you do not always do so bravely.  In fact, as I have mentioned before, still unable to find the quote, a Congressional Medal of Honor recipient once said that a hero was just as scared as everyone else.  In fact, he was so scared, he ran in the wrong direction.

To illustrate this, the US Army has a couple of Airborne divisions.  They can jump out of an airplane and get to the hot spot in a hurry.

But there is a problem with that.  You now have two fears to deal with.  You have the ever-present fear, at least in combat, that the enemy gets to you before you get to them.  But you have the additional fear that your parachute might not open.

Of course, each soldier packs his own chute and spends a lot of time learning how to do that properly, but accidents happen.

But to overcome the fear, the Airborne soldier sings about it.  There are two songs that I know of.

The first is Blood on the Risers.  It is sung to the tune of The Battle Hymn of the Republic.  You can find the original words on Youtube and other places, but this following version is shortened and updated by Vincent J. Speranza.  It leaves out the torture of the original version where his main chute does not open and then he gets tangled in his reserve chute and then he must think about what will happen when he lands.  The Speranza version jumps quickly to the blood on the risers, brains somewhere else, and pouring him from his boots.  He at least leaves out the “SPLAT!” Besides the video is a series of clips from various Band of Brothers reunions.

I have heard the 82nd Airborne Choir sing the above song, the original words, in a medley with the other song, Beautiful Streamer, to the tune of Beautiful Dreamer.  I could not find a suitable video, so here are the lyrics.

Beautiful streamer open for me
Blue Skies above and no canopy
Counted nine thousand – waited too long
Reached for my ripcord – the darn thing was gone.

Beautiful streamer, why must it be
White silk above me is what I should see
Just like my mother looks over me
To hell with the ripcord, twas not made for me.

Beautiful streamer, follow me down
The time is elapsing and here is the ground
600 feet and then I can tell
If I’ll go to heaven or end down in hell.

Beautiful streamer, this is the end
Gabriel is blowing “My Body Won’t Mend”
All you jump happy son’s of a gun
Take this last warning – Jumping’s no fun

  • Beautiful Streamer

Why do we laugh at death?  Gabrielle Applebury wrote an article for lovetoknow.com about laughing at death.  There are many psychological reasons.  You do not like or cannot deal with negative emotions.  You have no idea how to express your negative emotions.  You could be like me and be taught to never cry.  Note: I may not cry often, but I know not to laugh at a funeral.  Or you are afraid of the subject and you laugh in the face of death.

That last one is often false bravado.  In my junior year of college, my ROTC company commander wanted to be a career soldier.  He went to Airborne school right after his initial officer course for his specialty.  On his last jump, a jump made with full gear, the wind was marginal at the drop zone, but then it kicked up as they left the aircraft.  He was blown well past the drop zone and he found a nice field to land in, although controlling where to land was not really possible.  He wasn’t falling that fast, but his lateral speed was extremely high due to the wind.  When he landed, he was placed in an ambulance.  His entrenching tool (for you non-military, a small shovel) landed before he did and was driven through his hip when he landed on top of it.  Before he ever started, his career was over.

His story made up my mind.  As Beautiful Streamer ends, “Jumping’s no fun.”  I decided to get Airborne qualified.

But to the Airborne qualified soldiers and to those that I knew in the Airborne divisions, especially while attached to a Corps level desk job in the reserves, and to the member of the Band of Brothers that I knew well who has passed on, I salute you.

Whether bravery, bravado, or just too scared that you must sing, keep our country safe.

But for each of us, death is inevitable.  But Hosea and 1 Corinthians make it sound that we all can laugh at death.  Death does not have the final say.  With Jesus in your heart, death only provides us the pathway to be with our Savior.  Death, where is thy sting?!  Indeed.

Soli Deo Gloria.  Only to God be the Glory.

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