Death of World’s Oldest Man One Less Link to the 1800s «

    Death of World’s Oldest Man One Less Link to the 1800s

    COMMENTARY | Walter Breuning passed away Thursday at the age of 114, vacating his spot as the world’s oldest living man. He was 26 days younger than Besse Coope, who is currently at the top of the list as the oldest living person. This death comes as no surprise. The ultimate statistic is that 10 out of 10 people will die. Besse will someday pass away as well, and another supercentenarian will be in line to take her place as the oldest living person. Currently that person is Chiyono of Japan. When she passes, another will be in line. This chain will continue as long as people are around. When a member of this elite crowd of supercentenarians dies, we react differently than when we hear of the death of a person of younger age. Living past 100 years is a feat that most of us can’t even imagine. Living past 110 — that simply seems impossible. Instead of mourning a death, we find ourselves celebrating with awe and wonder a life that has seen more things than we can imagine. Breuning lived in a time before cars, before TV, before most of the things that we take for granted. He lived through events that we can only read about in history books, such as World War I. Most amazing, though, is that he lived during the 1800s. The same awe and wonder will always be associated with members of the oldest living people. In 100 years from now, people will be dumbfounded by those of us who can remember life as simple as it currently is. The thing that will be missing shortly, though, is the link to the 1800s. That link is almost completely gone. When Breuning died, he left only 53 known members of the supercentenarian club who were born in the 19th century. That number will quickly dwindle to none. When that happens, our link with that portion of history will forever be gone. This link is quickly fading for other portions of our history as well. Recently, the last veteran of WWI passed away. When he died, any untold stories from that time were lost forever. The same will soon apply to the Great Depression. There are fewer people each day who can remember that horrible time in our nation’s history. When they leave this Earth, so will their stories. Of course, we have no power over death. People are going to continue to die. Our lesson in this is to not take for granted the history available to us. Before it’s too late, we need to do a better job of writing down the memories of those who have seen more than we can imagine. We need to write down the histories and stories of those around us. Our moms and dads, grandmas and grandpas, brothers and sisters all lived this life differently than anyone else in history. When they pass away, they take that with them.

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