It’s almost the 11th hour

on the 11th  day

of the 11th month

and I’m gearing up for it.

Felt poppy

Lest we forget.

First comes the reading of the stanzas from that famous poem:

They shall grow not old,
as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
– Laurence Binyon

I take deep breaths, trying to hold things in.

The singing or reading of In Flanders Fields and the laying of wreaths and the Silver Cross Mother make me sway.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
      Between the crosses, row on row…
– John McCrae

But the hardest part, the part that always makes me lose it, is the standing.  Wherever I am, at 11:00 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, I stand and observe a moment of silence.

Lest we forget.

I do this out of respect for all the victims of war and those who are called to stand up on our behalf, those left behind and those who return, never to be the same.  Some years, Practical Man and I stand, hands clasped in each other’s, in our living room.  Or in the middle of a store.   He has 20 years of military bearing to draw on.  I spend a lot of time trying to stay standing as the waves of emotion roll over me.  Other years, I stand, locked in my office at work, the service from the National War Memorial in Ottawa streamed to my computer.

Then the bugle plays the Last Post.

No graceful tears slowly trail down my cheeks.  No eyes glisten like pools of water filling up beautifully on a super model.  No siree.  I am a full on snorting, sobbing, blotchy mess each Remembrance Day.  But that’s okay.  In fact, it’s how it should be.

War is terrible.  For victims.  For soldiers.  For families.  For all.

Lest we forget.

I think of another poem about how easy it is to turn away when the one being oppressed isn’t ourselves.  The poem’s powerful last stanza reads:

Then they came for me,
and there was no one left to speak for me.
– Martin Niemoeller

For those living in North America, war can seem quite retro or vintage at times.  We can get comfortable in our relative daily peace and some even start thinking that war, and those who participate in it, are like a video game or a  Hollywood movie.   They think that supporting our troops means supporting the politics or promoting war as an inevitable solution or triumphant, glorious thing.

It is not.  War is a terrible, awful thing.

Yet, there are still people who volunteer to stand out front and face evil, bombs, death, injury and injustice.  Honour and peacekeeping and rallying against dictators and regimes seem delightfully quaint and vintage these days.  But, there are still those who volunteer, in the genuine belief that all else has failed and the hope that perhaps, we can improve things by not standing by silently.

Lest we forget.

I think of my Grandpa Howard, in the tanks during WWII.

Grandpa Howard

Grandpa Howard

I think of my Grandpa Lou, a paratrooper with the Canada-US First Special Service Force (often known at the Devil’s Brigade).

My grandparents on their wedding day

Grandma Helen and Grandpa Lou

I think of my Grandma Helen, newly married in 1943.   Soon after, she received one of the Missing In Action telegrams that every sweetheart and family dreaded.

My Grandpa Lou had been shot and was staying as a “guest” of the Germans in a prison of war camp.  He himself wrote a telegram a few weeks after the MIA telegram, sending his love and asking for cigarettes.   He escaped then got shot and captured again but eventually came home and started a family.

I enjoyed both my grandfathers into my 20s.   I am so fortunate.    Millions of those Grandpa Lou and Grandpa Howard went to fight for and with, were not.

Lest we forget.

I think of Practical Man, who served 20 years in military service to Canada and his father, Russell, who served in the Korean War.  Russell contracted malaria in Korea and died in his early 30s after routine surgery–possibly of complications from that malaria virus.

Practical Man's father

Russell

He left five young children and a young wife behind, just as many men and women posted to Iraq, Afghanistan and elsewhere, have done in recent years.  They will never be the same.

Lest we forget.

Despite what the media sometimes portrays, I don’t think those families are mourning or glorifying heroes.  They are mourning and remembering mothers and fathers, sisters and sons, friends and loved ones.  Regular people, gone or wounded in mind, body or spirit, forever.

My runny nose and red eyes are just a drop in the ocean of sorrow on this day.

I wear a red poppy over my heart each Remembrance Day to honour the sacrifice and to honour what all veterans and their families know:  war should be the absolutely last resort.  It is too costly.

Lest we forget.

I hope we never will.

Copyright Christine Fader, 2013.  Did you enjoy this post from A Vintage Life?    Share on Facebook       Tweet         You might also like my latest book.

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