Every now and then the past reaches forward to touch us on a shoulder, reminding us that we are echoes of what has gone before and just as susceptible to catastrophe as our forefathers.
The death of Major Jan Linzel, aged 103, at the Community Hospital in Castletownbere, Co Cork, on Sunday was one such moment.
A WWII fighter pilot, he was the last survivor of the Royal Dutch Air Force that tried to repel the Luftwaffe when Germany declared war on the Netherlands on May 10, 1940 — 79 years ago tomorrow.
Mr Linzel escaped to Britain and joined the RAF. He and his wife Marianne have lived in Glengarriff for over 30 years and he will be buried there this morning.
He lived through two world wars so the idea of this month’s European elections must have seemed almost impossible and fantastic at the same time to him.
They do show that we have the capacity to learn from the tragedies endured by Mr Linzel and his European peers — even if ever louder voices suggest otherwise. His early life is testimony to the danger of a fragmented Europe and another reason to vote on May 24.