(I originally wrote this three years ago. It is one of several posts that I wrote, that I now suspect was God’s way of preparing me for the loss of my son, Larry. The last paragraph in the post I have found of great comfort now that I have experienced, and how I wish that cup had passed me by, the grief that Kipling knew.)
For most parents, when asked the question, “What is the worst thing in the world that could happen to you?”, the answer that comes terribly to mind is “The death of one of my kids.” Kipling faced this horror with the death of his only son, John Kipling. By all accounts, John Kipling was a bright and friendly young man. When Great Britain entered World War I, Jack, as he was known, like most young men of his generation, decided it was his patriotic duty to enlist and fight for his country. He attempted to enlist in the Navy, but was refused due to his bad eyesight. His father used ever bit of influence that he could muster on behalf of his son, and obtained a commission for his son as a second lieutenant with the Irish Guards. It should be clearly understood that Kipling did not force his son to go to war, but that rather he helped his son obtain his heart’s desire.
On his 18th birthday Jack landed in France. Six weeks later he was killed at the battle of Loos on September 27, 1915. Like so many of the dead during World War I, his body was never recovered. His parents held out some hope that perhaps he had been taken prisoner, but from the moment he was reported missing they reconciled themselves to the fact that their boy was probably dead. Their grief they kept private, befitting the dignity that used to be much more common than it is today. In honor of his son, Kipling wrote a two volume history of the Irish Guards during the Great War. I am sure Jack would have heartily approved. His son’s name is only mentioned once in the history, among the dead in an appendix, something I am sure that Jack would also have approved, since he was of a time and place that valued restraint and quiet dignity.