Murtha and mortality

News of the death of Congressman John Murtha today was sad, and also a little personally poignant. Every time it was mentioned, the announcers ended with, “He was 77.” When you’re approaching birthday number 77, and listening to news reports that repeatedly conclude, “He was 77,” it’s hard not to get a small jolt.

There is a yarzheit candle, meanwhile, flickering in my kitchen window. It marks the 20th anniversary of the death of my husband’s late wife, Judith Clancy. Had she lived, she would be 77 next month. She was a gifted artist whose drawings are in some significant museums and collections. Her work has been exhibited in France and a number of American cities.

Representative Murtha, despite some questionable financial issues, also had a distinguished career. It was a long one — a few weeks ago he became the longest-serving congressman from Pennsylvania. He died of complications from gall bladder surgery, a procedure after which my husband also recently suffered some pretty horrendous complications. But my husband, who was born a few years before the rest of us, survived. In the late news being reported as I type this, an announcer is once again noting Congressman Murtha’s death. “He was 77.”

There are reasons to appreciate tomorrow’s sunrise.