THE TRAGEDY OF THEIR PASSING

by David Sisler

The world will little note nor long remember.

When President Abraham Lincoln spoke in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania, he said, mistakenly, that his speech and the action of dedicating the national cemetery would soon be forgotten. I think of a man I know who says that he has written a volume about the history of the denomination he serves, a volume to be published only after its author is "dead and gone, rotten and forgotten."

We who are left behind when a loved one dies, try in vain to hold on. We publish a blurry, ancient photograph with the obituary as a tribute and as a way of expressing our grief. We carefully manicure the grave beneath which rests the body where that dear one once lived, placing flowers we know the deceased cannot see but we can see them, and it makes us feel better.

The world may little note, nor long remember, but you can be certain that there is someone who notes, someone who remembers, someone who grieves.

First Sgt. Frankie L. Lingard of Orangeburg, SC, was shot to death thirty minutes before this new year of 1998 began. A white Mustang traveling at 80 mph sped past First Sgt. Lingard, and another officer on Interstate 95. The car was stopped at the Highway 301 exit, but as First Sgt. Lingard approached the vehicle, Justin Matecki shot him and then sped away. A chase through three counties ended with Matecki's capture thirty minutes after the trooper died.

"How are you doing, officer," Matecki said before firing a gun at the 15-year highway patrol veteran. Matecki's accomplice said he allegedly told her he shot the officer four times in the heart, shoulder, arm and spine because he was driving with a suspended license.

Rodney Brody, 47, a customer at a Citgo convenience store at 3200 State Avenue, in Kansas City, Kansas, died on New Year's Eve from gunshot wounds. Three witnesses said Brody struggled for his wallet with an armed robber who then shot Brody in the head.

According to police, Mr. Brody's killer was Gentry E. Bolton, age 19. When the Kansas City Star went to press New Year's Day, Bolton was still at large.

Two car crashes also made the news New Year's Eve from Kansas.

Jay Delich, 38, of Bonner Springs, died after the car he was driving flipped near the Interstate 635 and Interstate 70 interchange. Delich was driving east on I-70 just before 10 p.m. when his 1989 Plymouth went off the road between the I-635 bridges, became airborne and hit an embankment.

Seventeen-year-old Steven Knapp was killed when his 1986 Ford Escort went off the road and overturned. He was not wearing his seat belt and was thrown from his car by the force of the crash.

The nude body of Billy Joe Shepherd of San Diego, California was found on the rocks near Sunset Cliff early on New Year's Eve. City lifeguards at first believed the man fell from the 100 foot cliffs, but later investigation appeared to show that marks on the body were inconsistent from the fall. The Union-Tribune reported no additional leads the next day. Shepherd was 22.

When Nora Vanwey died, she was crossing the busy street where she had lived for fifty years. The 75-year-old woman was wearing dark clothes when she stepped onto a busy street, taking a plate of freshly baked cookies to a neighbor. Police said the Leavenworth, Kansas resident had not crossed at the intersection and filed no charges against the driver of the car. In addition to her husband, LeRoy, Mrs. Vanwey is survived by her two children and by two grandchildren and a great-granddaughter.

The world will little note, nor long remember.

Unless your ancestors were Rose and Joseph Kennedy. Michael Kennedy also died on New Year's Eve, the victim of a stupid accident, but whereas the deaths of First Sgt. Frankie L. Lingard, Rodney Brody, Jay Delich, Steven Knapp, Billy Joe Shepherd, and Nora Vanwey appeared in only a few newspapers and on a few electronic broadcasts, the media once again turned the death of a famous person into a momentous milestone. Michael Kennedy's claims to fame were his father and grandfather's name and the brand of immoral living that seems to be part of the Kennedy family crest, their badge of dishonor.

Michael Kennedy was eulogized and editorialized by almost every media outlet in the country. Talk shows fought for one more guest to spill more disgusting details. No death should be trivialized, but his was only one fatality on New Year's Eve. The world barely noted the passing of the others and remembered them for even less time, and that, far more than any cry of senseless, stupid or meaningless, is the tragedy of their passing. Only one tragedy is greater to die without knowing Jesus Christ as Lord and Savior.

-30-

Published in the Augusta Chronicle 1/17/98

Copyright 1998 by David Sisler. All Rights Reserved.

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