His soul swooned slowly as he heard the snow falling faintly through the universe and faintly falling, like the descent of their last end, upon all the living and the dead.
- James Joyce, "The Dead"
Perhaps it was fitting that the familiar figures traipsed to the Statehouse between bookends of snowfall to mourn a fallen member of their number.
They gathered in the rotunda to pay tribute to former U.S. Rep. Andy Jacobs, D-Ind. A quick glimpse at the figures
gathered among the smooth columns of old marble revealed leaders whose names were etched deep in recent history.
Former U.S. Rep. Lee Hamilton, D-Ind., foreign policy guru and guiding spirit for consensus Democrats, exchanged hugs with former U.S. Rep. Jill Long Thompson, D-Ind., the first woman in Indiana history to be a major party candidate for both U.S. senator and governor. Working his way through the receiving line was former Indiana Rep. Bill Crawford, D-Indianapolis, who had served as chair of the Indiana House Ways and Means Committee.
Other dignitaries - fixtures in the news columns in the days when being a fixture in the news column meant more than it does now - waited patiently to pay their respects.
Most were products of an earlier era. They stood at the center of - and worked and fought during - many a crowded hour.
They were the cold warriors who clashed over the best ways to resist communism. They were the marchers who resisted institutionalized racial discrimination and ushered in both the civil rights era and new understandings of what it means to be an American. They were the campaigners who helped light the fuse for the feminist revolution and saw new definitions of family and new rules for the workplace emerge.
In their time and on their watch, they saw empires collapse, presidents tumble and race- and gender-based hierarchies crumble. They helped write the history of their time and scratched their names upon that history's pages.
But time moves on.
Communism faltered and fell, only to be replaced by threats and fears of terrorism. The old battles over race-based and gender-derived discrimination gave way to arguments over barriers imposed by ethnicity and sexual orientation. New leaders emerged to write their names on history's pages.
In his beautiful short story, "The Dead," the great Irish writer James Joyce uses the image of snowfall as a symbol of both death and the renewal of life. Joyce reminds us that we all are pulled ceaselessly into the past, that no matter how crowded and tumultuous our lives and times are, we all find that the shouts of our breathing days eventually quiet into the murmurs of history.
Snow fell heavily on the day before Andy Jacobs' memorial service. It left a blanket of pure white upon the land where he lived, the land that he loved.
Those who came to pay their respects to his memory and grieve with his family shook the snow off their coats and stamped it off their shoes as they entered the aged Statehouse. They gathered in the warmth of their companionship to hear and talk about Jacobs, a life lived fully and a heart that once throbbed with hope and joy and love. They mourned the passing of a great soul who shared a portion of their own march through time.
They laughed. They cried. They remembered.
Then the old warriors cloaked themselves again in their coats. They embraced once more. And then they stepped back out again into the cold to await the fall of another fresh snow - another blanket of white to serve as a reminder of the quiet that awaits them at the end of their days.
Another reminder of the quiet that awaits us all.
John Krull is director of Franklin College's Pulliam School of Journalism, host of "No Limits" WFYI 90.1 FM Indianapolis and publisher of TheStatehouseFile.com, a news website powered by Franklin College journalism students.