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March 25, 2008
We have now surpassed four thousand dead on our side -- uncounted dead on the other side. We reached this milestone yesterday, I think, or maybe the day before. Today the paper published several pages of their photographs. I decided to pray for them as I let my eyes wander among the rows of young faces. Such eyes, looking determinedly into my eyes! Such serious, tight mouths, on most of them - except for those not represented by a military photograph but by a family snapshot, in which there was some room for a little mischief.

And, most of all, such youth. They are almost all so young. There are so many things they didn't get to taste. I look at them all and want to reopen each one's case -- "Not yet. It's much too soon. She hasn't had a chance to get married yet, to have children. He was going to go to school when he got out. Not him -- he's an only child. Undo this!"

But the only answer is a stony silence. Things don't undo. I can pray a fruitless bargain for as long as I want -- and I do want to pray this way for a while. I do want to feel these losses as the terrible betrayal of the gift of life they are. I do want to argue on their behalf, even though I know that's not how prayer works. I want God to see my sorrow, to take my turn bewailing these deaths. These fallen deserve my grief.

They also deserve what goodness we can bring into the world. Whoever they were, whatever their politics and whatever ours, they served on our behalf and died on our behalf. It is an unthinkable insult to this sacrifice for us not even to notice.
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