In war the dead pay the debts for the living.

Tim's mother quotes Father as saying this, and notes that he himself never expected to have to pay. This is perhaps one of the wisest lines in the novel, and it repeatedly shows itself to be true. Both young Jerry Sanford and young Tim Meeker have gotten involved in the war to a dangerous extent, and it is simply a matter of timing and circumstance that Tim lives through the story and Jerry does not. Father took his own chances during involvement in a war before Tim and Sam were born, but he does not have to pay his debt for years. He dies during Sam's war, a time when he believed himself safe and uninvolved. Sam notes at the beginning of the novel that one ought to die for one's cause, and he understands at the end that his turn to pay has come. This quotation marks the unfairness of war, in which many are involved, but not everyone involved dies. The unlucky ones die on behalf of all those involved. People like Time and his mother are left behind, alive but empty from so many personal losses.