I will soon be thrown into the mass grave along with the naked corpses of the other soldiers. I am Colonel Chabert, not just an ordinary soldier, Colonel Chabert who led a whole regiment of soldiers to many a victory for none other than Napoleon himself. I have been famous when the blood still ran in my veins reddening my cheeks with the zest for conquests. But now I am no more than a body going to be thrown into a mass grave with very ordinary bodies.
|The Battle of Eylau|
Death makes you a mere body. All bodies are equal and ordinary. What makes you different is life, your life.
My last battle was the toughest. The Battle of Eylau. Our brave French soldiers met the equally brave Russian soldiers in the most inclement of weathers in Arctic conditions. The fatal wound I received runs from the nape of my neck to just above my right eye. You can still see it. My blood stopped running through my veins. There was little blood left for the veins to carry.
No wonder they thought me dead.
The distance between life and death is just a moment. The other day I happened to watch a man with grey hairs but a face suffused with vitality buying apples from a wayside seller. The man looked as if he would live another twenty years, hale and hearty. Just as he picked up his basket of apples and got on to the path again, he staggered a little and collapsed. He was dead in a moment.
Marshal Murat dispatched a whole battalion, no less than 1500 horsemen, to rescue me when I lay wounded and dying. Napoleon himself sent two of his best surgeons to save my life. Napoleon needs me, I know. Every conqueror admires brave warriors.
Heroes admire heroes. Have you ever noticed that? It’s only the weak that harbour petty feelings like jealousy and distrust. I didn’t say heroes love heroes. No, love has nothing to do with it. It’s admiration. It’s an acceptance of the other’s abilities and skills. Napoleon admires even the youngest of his soldiers provided he is brave.
I can feel life oozing out of me. I will soon be dead. And thrown into the mass grave, another body among many bodies. Body. That’s what I will soon be.
Nothing. That’s what I will be a little while from now. The body will vanish, eaten by the soil and its maggots.
The whole rugged path I travelled from the time I was born is visible to my mind’s eye as I lie giving up my soul. Every life is a journey. When you are born, a road is also born. Your road. The road that you will travel inevitably. It is up to you how you choose to travel that road. You can simply walk along without noticing what’s on either side. You can choose to kick away the pebbles on the way and beat down the brambles on the sides. You can admire the fragrance of flowers and the music of the birds. You can conquer the lands on the sides. You may even erect barriers on the road, your road!
Whatever you do, in the end, you will be a body, lying dead on some cold mountain, ready to be forgotten. Don’t count on the memories of people whom you consider beloved. Love has little to do with life. Other people have their roads still stretching ahead and they have to travel it – inevitably. They cannot mourn your death forever.
Even Napoleon will be a body one day. To be buried and forgotten.
My spirit is giving up. I can feel it. I can see the end of my road. Oh, how pathetic! Like the culmination of the French Revolution!
Post Script: This is not a story about negativity. Far from it, I love life and it abundant excitements. My road is much different from Napoleon’s (and other conquerors’), however.
Illustration courtesy: http://deadliestblogpage.wordpress.com/2012/02/12/5/