Unashamed Writing

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The lucky ones died – A poem

war memorialYesterday I saw a link for an article about survivors of World War II. Part of the caption for that link was, “the lucky ones died.” Those four words were enough to make me emotional. The article in itself was a lesson … or a powerful reminder about what life really is about.

Last night I wrote a poem based on those words. Usually, my poems are very personal and I don’t really get embarrassed by how simple they are. This poem is about something outside my own little world but, since metaphors and sticking to any kind of poetic rhythm or form are not my strengths, I had to keep it simple too. I hope it still has some meaning for anyone who had to go through a war.


The Lucky Ones Died
By Ada Ireland


“The lucky ones died,”
I tell myself as I wake up and think of you.

Your war ended on the frontline,
The day you got shot and died in my arms.
That day, my war changed into a never ending nightmare
That started with the questions,
“Why did you have to die?”
“Why did I get to live?”

Officially that war ended many years ago,
Peace treaties were signed and the survivors went home.
Unofficially wars aren’t truly over
Until everyone who had to live through them dies.

I still ask myself those questions every morning.
I still see them in the eyes of the family and friends you left behind.
They’re still on the lips of all the survivors I meet.
I want to know
And they want to know
What happened.
Were my dreams bigger?
Was my character stronger?
Was I a better husband?
A more caring father?
What was it? …
Why  did you have to die?
Why  did I get to live?

Before the war I thought that surviving would be a blessing,
Now I know it’s one part blessing, many parts curse, and the rest is guilt.
Every moment I feel I have to justify being alive,
I have to prove myself day in, day out,
I have to show through my actions and my feelings
That the gift of life was not wasted on me.

I’m giving my best in everything,
But nothing I do is ever enough
To answer those two ever present questions:
“Why did you have to die?”
“Why did I get to live?

“The lucky ones died,”
I tell myself as I go to bed and think of you.
I remember your dreams.
I recall the jokes and stories we shared between battles.
I think back on our talks about our fears and hopes.
And just before I fall asleep
A thought occurs to me:
Not all of you died that day.
Part of you is now living in me.

Was it a random act of fate that you died?
Was it a cruel irony that I got to live?
I don’t know …
I’ll never know the reason for your passing,
But maybe tomorrow I’ll wake up and finally feel,
It is OK for me to live.


Add a Comment
  1. I liked this. It’s very different from the poems you usually write, but it has strength. I used to wonder ‘why’ about life and death, and how a small thing can take a life and a big thing can be survived. This is the conclusion I came up with, and it’s dead clever.

    Until it’s your time, nothing can kill you.
    When it’s your time, nothing can save you.

    1. Thank you. I didn’t write this for myself and it’s not how I feel about life, living, surviving, and all those questions … anymore.

      Your conclusion is clever, catchy, and … incomplete. I like it though. It keeps things simple.

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