thread: 2005-03-10 : Character Death

On 2005-03-13, Sydney Freedberg wrote:

It's weird when your hobby and your work converge like this. I'm a defense reporter, I was lead writer on our magazine's Memorial Day package last year about war deaths, half my sources were in Vietnam, and my former boss and favorite journalist ever, Michael Kelly, was killed while embedded in Iraq. (Oh yeah, and my father died in my arms, but that was end-stage renal failure after years of decline, so not really germane. Oh, and I'm a Christian, so I'm pretty sure God got killed too). Michael left behind two kids under 10 and a wife, too, so that's pretty on-target for Red Sky A.M., even though he was a civilian.
So. Death.
After we heard that Michael Kelly had died, most of the staff at the magazine went out for a drink together. Somebody started saying, well, he died doing what he believed in, and what he loved, and so on, and so forth. And I said: Wait. No. This was random. This was a stupid accident—his Humvee took enemy fire outside Baghdad Airport and crashed into a canal. Michael's death was meaningless. But his life, his life, that was meaningful.
Dickens' Tale of Two Cities and a hundred other fictional examples aside, it's not how we die that makes our lives mean something. It's how we live that makes our death mean something.
Sure, you can go with Dickens and say, this is fiction, you only get to die if you want to make a statement. I'm not sure that's it, though. I think the real power comes from telling people, "You want to do this? Okay. Understand you can die at any time. For nothing. For reason, not even a stupid one. Now—in face of that—what do you do?"
THAT, my friends, is meaning. I want to play that game.
- Sydney Freedberg


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