Rest in heavenly peace

Posted 25 September 2010 by
Clair Cline with violin made while a POW

Clair Cline with violin made while a POW. Photo by Geff Hinds of the News Tribune.

The Tacoma News Tribune reported the death of Clair Cline, 92, on Sunday, September 19, 2010. If I may adapt the usual prayer when remembering a deceased person, may Clair Cline rest in heavenly peace and arise in glory.

Why remember and honor Cline? The fact that the US airman, shot down over the Netherlands, was a prisoner of war during World War II would be enough. What he did while a prisoner deserves notice, though.

Cline made a violin while a prisoner of war. The first concert was on Christmas Eve, 1944. A song he chose to play crossed all wartime front lines, “Silent Night.” Or, “Stille Nacht,” if you prefer. At least that is what a guard started singing while the prisoners sang in English. The News Tribune article gives us an account of the story and life of Cline.

This is not the first time “Stille Nacht” was shared among enemies.

Christmas Truce 1914

Christmas Truce 1914. Picture from the Imperial War Museum archives.

World War I had its instances of Christmas truces. When the story of a specific truce is told, usually the singing of “Silent Night” is included, typically as a pivotal event.

I suspect some of these truce stories are told with a bit of artistic freedom, even if based on fact. It still does not change the fact that those on opposing sides could find a way to treat each other in a civil manner, even if for a night.

These stories of resonate with us.

Why do they resonate with us? After Christmas truces, the soldiers all went back to war, killing each other. No one was let out of a prisoner of war camp because of “Silent Night.”

In 2001, the Hon. Pat Scott, representative from the 38th legislative district in Washington and Democrat stalwart, died in office from lung cancer. When speaking at her funeral, the Hon. Clyde Ballard, co-speaker of the Washington House and Republican, introduced himself only as a representative from Wenatchee. It did not go unnoticed by some that Ballard “lowered” himself to Scott’s level for the funeral, a nice gesture. But, that truce between Republicans and Democrats was not long lived, either.

Are such moments of catharsis necessary so we can go back to treating each other like jerks?

Cline has found peace, even if for a brief moment, during a concert while a prisoner of war. He now has his peace from struggle on this earth. May we find a way to peace today, and may it last longer than an evening, so that we can rise above the war of life to enter the Peaceable Kingdom.

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