Walking away is not an option... dialogue must prevail.

"A good listener tries to understand what the other person is saying. In the end he may disagree sharply, but because he disagrees, he wants to know exactly what it is he is disagreeing with."
- Kenneth A. Wells

"I do not want the peace that passeth understanding. I want the understanding which bringeth peace."
- Helen Keller

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Remembering the fallen

Lately it seems that I come out to blog on very rare occasions. It’s ironic that as my last sortie was to promote a Peace Movement for Bloggers (see last post), the one immediately following it should be a very sombre yet hopeful and celebratory post.

I am Canadian. And on this 11th day, of the 11th month at the 11th hour, I will be bowing my head and thinking back to the thousands of soldiers, heroes, who died in the service of my country. They fought for their homeland, their families, to right injustices, for the weak and defenseless and so that Peace may be returned to the world.

In 1918, on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month, Armistice was signed. It heralded the end of World War I, The Great War. I find it so sad that we should have enough wars to number them... and I pray my daughter and her children won’t come to know another World War.

Last year, I posted about my father and his twin brother. I was thankful my Irish-born grandmother and Greek-born grandfather didn’t have to pay the ultimate price so many parents have had to pay over the years during Man’s history.

I had spent hours looking at and touching documents and mementos from my father’s time in the army. My heart swelled with pride as my eyes swelled with tears.

I thought of the women in my family and what this would mean to them... my aunts watched their baby brothers enlist. I remember my aunt Kay telling me how protective my grandma Mary had been of Dad as a baby. And how now, so many women send their husbands and sons to the desert, not knowing if they'll come home.

If I ascend up
into Heaven
Thou art there:
If I lay down
in Hell
Thou art there!
If I take
the wings
of the morning
and dwell in
the uttermost
parts of
the sea,
even there
shall Thy hand
lead me
and Thy right
shall hold me.

-Psalm 139

During the summer of 2005, my daughter and I took a girls only road trip. We toured a good portion of Ontario, discovering a part of our country. Our last stop was to be the nation's capital for a visit to the Science Museum. We ended up staying in Ottawa a little longer than originally planned. We drove by the Parliament and saw a light show was on and so we parked he car and waked over to join people from all across Canada and many visitors from foreign lands. Chicklet stopped at the eternal flame.

We decided to stay another day and after watching an inspiring musical light show we headed back to the hotel to rest up for a trip back to Parliament during the daytime. The next morning, we walked back to a place I had visited as a child and was still in awe of.

We visited the Peace Tower and Parliament Hill, walked in the solemn quiet of the Memorial Chamber and read the names of the brave from the Books of Remembrance.

We stood in front of the altar and marveled at the detail in the carvings and at the beauty of the stained glass windows. I was humbled at the scope and magnitude of the sacrifice that the books laid out for me. So many had died... some were so very young, from all parts of my great nation. That small yet majestic room sparked in me feelings of hope, that we may finally find Peace, a Peace that would be stronger than the stone, glass and metals from which the memorial was so lovingly and expertly crafted.

“My idea is that visitors to the Memorial Chamber shall realize the sanctity of the place, the pavement whereon they stand, the nations gathered at this shrine, the tremendous sacrifice, and shall read the lettered panel below the window of the Assembly of Remembrance so that there may come home to them the exhortation – Wherefore seeing we also are compassed about with so great a cloud of witnesses let us lay aside every weight and the sin which doth so easily beset us and let us run with patience the race that is set before us. Then as a parting benediction, carved over the door, the relatives of those who gave their lives, as they leave the Chamber will read:

All’s well for over there among his peers a happy warrior sleeps.”

-John Pearson, Master Architect.

I imagined the scenes in so many kitchens across our great land throughout the years, as mothers taking a brief pause from their chore filled days, would sit at the kitchen table, wiping a tear from their eyes as they worried about their sons who were in trenches, on transports, at sea...
My grandmother was one of them, her twin baby boys in training to fight as first generation Canadians... proud first generation Canadians.

She was fortunate not to suffer the same great loss that befell Mrs Charlotte Wood of Winnipeg, who had twelve sons and was awarded five silver crosses, one for each of five of those sons (Joseph, Louis, Fred, Harry and Percy) killed in the first world war, the war to end all wars. She was Canada's first Silver Cross mother. At her funeral in 1939, the ladies of the War Widows, of which she was an honoured member, passed by her grave and each dropped a poppy on her coffin.

In our changing times, following the death of Captain Nichola Goddard (Canada's first female soldier killed in combat), the Silver Cross has now been awarded to a widower... this isn't a change I cherish. I would like to see such medals become relics, reminders of times passed.

Canadian Soldier

Do not cry for me,
For I am a Canadian soldier.
Guardian of “The True, North, strong and free”,
Ambassador of the “Red Maple Leaf”.

I know that, what I had of freedom,
All I used or knew,
Is what our father’s
Fought for us long ago.

I did not give
That freedom away or,
Have someone take it away
By force or law.

You hold in your hands
The most precious of gifts.
Freedom to love and express art.
Freedom to be who you want to be.

Freedom is a package deal.
With it comes responsibilities and consequences.
The price of freedom is eternal vigilance.
Do not make our sacrifice, one in vain.

I join God knowing,
I fought for my fellow man’s freedom.
My duty complete,
Yours to carry on in memory.

For now my mother is crying,
And criticism of our mission arises.
Question not, but always remember,
For I am a Canadian soldier.

- Sgt. M.J. Watts

Later that day, my daughter and I walked to the Tomb of The Unknown Soldier where I said a silent prayer of thanks, and where we returned a couple of years later to pay our respects during the Remembrance Day ceremonies. My daughter left a poppy on that tomb as a show of gratitude.

We stood and cheered as our veterans marched past us. Before the celebrations started, Chicklet had walked over to a group of veterans waiting for the procession to start and thanked them, shaking their hands.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
~John McCrae, 1915

The Ode of Remembrance

They went with songs to the battle, they were young.
Straight of limb, true of eyes, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
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.
Lest we forget.

I've posted this before, and will continue to do so on Remembrance day...

I cry…

For the men and women who died, fighting for our Nation, for my freedom and the freedom of others…
For the mothers and fathers who have lost their sons and daughters in the fight for Peace…
For the men and women who have lost their soul mate…
For the children, those who are left behind… and those who shall never come to be…
For the friends who are left with only memories…
For those who have no PEACE…
For those who forget what makes the sacrifice so meaningful...
For those who miss so many important moments of everyday life because they are fighting for justice... the first step, the first tooth, the first goal, the first school play…
For my country, for we have lost so many fine Canadians…
For those who died alone... and for those who are buried so far from home...
For those who confuse their opinions on war and the respect and appreciation owed for the sacrifice of our soldiers...
For those who have lost their brothers and sisters in arms and parts of themselves...
For those who will not take the time to remember…


Travis said...

Beautiful. I offer my thanks and my respect to all who have served, and to those who serve today.

Mike Golch said...

great posting.I thnak you for it. I will always remember those who came before me and the ones I served with as well as thank all who serve now and from now on.Peace be with all the veterans.

Lu' said...

WOW, Brava for teaching your daughter that Nov 11 is not just a day off from school but what it truely means and not just by telling her but letting her touch and feel what it means. I say again WOW.

Anndi said...

Travis: Thanks. There are few posts more important than the ones I write to honour my Nation's veterans and fallen. For they gave me the right to speak my mind. I shall never forget.

Mike: Peace be with all the veterans indeed. Thank you for your service Sir.

Lu: We wear our poppies and flags proudly. My daughter has a face to tie in with the veterans: her grandfather... I've found a way to make it personal and that may be a key. I hope she takes very important lessons from history. Thank you for your kind words my friend.

CherryPie said...

I very nice tribute :-)

James Higham said...

Fabulous, simply fabulous testament and this can bring us together as people in any corner of the world.

Anndi said...

cherrypie: Thank you for visiting and taking the time to remember with me.

James: I appreciate your kindness, and I know we can work towards peace united as allies once more.


It's nice to know someone of your generation still cares enough to show due respect for the soldiers.

I use to live in Ottawa and loved the Eterena flame. Isn't it amazing that it never goes out?

Any ex-boyfriend of mine started the 'peace camp' there.

I find the poster for there recruitment of the soldiers scary.
I would tie any male family member of mine up, and refuse to aallow them to fight in some politicians war.

Bond said...

Excellent post today Ann...I find it so comforting in many ways that we share this day of remembrance with our partner country to the North.

Charles Gramlich said...

Lovely pictures and sentiment. Amen

Mimi Lenox said...

That Chicklet is something else. And so are you. This is beautiful post, Ann. You do these like no one I know. As I said on my blog today, "Soldiers pray for peace, their families pray for peace. Godspeed the day."

We all should be appreciate of the sacrifices and heroism shown here.
Thank you for reminding us in such a lovely way.

Kay said...

Beautiful Anndi,

I admit to a tear or two as I read it.

I have a sign up on my desk... don't want to admit to how many people have asked me what it is for....

Akelamalu said...

Beautiful post Anndi.

I wear my poppy with pride and have been pleased to see many students at my school wearing them too.

Lest we forget.

Anndi said...

Ubermouth: There are increasing numbers of the younger generations who have a new appreciation for our veterans as so many of our fine men and women assist the Afghans in their quest for a better life.

Bond: The origin of your celebration is the same as mine, the end of the Great War - Armistice Day. Eisenhower changed it to Veteran's Day much later on and ours became Remembrance Day. So many allied troops have fought and died side by side. The people of France, England, Belgium... It is a world wide day solemn celebration.

Charles: You should see the pictures in my mind's eye... they are far more beautiful. Amen indeed.

Mims: Thank you my friend in Peace. My offerings are but a mere token of all the appreciation I have for my heroes.
And I agree, my Chicklet truly IS something else.

Kay: I'm glad you were touched by the sacrifice and my offering of thanks.

Anndi said...

Akelamalu: I watched celebrations of remembrance from all over the world over the course of the morning and it was lovely to see the dedications in the UK. Children here are seeing their parents off to Afghanistan.. there is still much to do and a great deal of support to be given.

Ralph said...

Anndi, in the USA not many remember what wonderful allies the Canadian Armed Forces were to us in WWII. Canada and the US share a love of liberty and freedom. And will fight to defend it. Patti and I were at a nice ceremony locally, and it is a shame to see the ranks of WWII vets reducing in number. And when the trumpeter plays 'Taps', you feel it. Thanks for allowing us to read your writings on Remembrance Day...we must not forget!

DoubleDeckerBusGuy said...

A wonderful tribute... beautiful and stirring... thank you for taking the time to type it, add the photos, and most importantly, share it with us all.

Brian o vretanos said...

I can't begin to imagine what WWI in particular was like. When you think of how long ago it was, and how few people are still left who lived through it, our memory of it is still so strong, and won't be forgotten in a hurry.

Desert Songbird said...

We should not forget those who come home in a box, but we should also never forget those who come home whole in body, but never, EVER whole in spirit. They'll never be whole again.

Meribah said...

Sadly, the War To End All Wars didn't. Fortunately, the hope for Eternal Peace continues and will prevail.
We will always remember.

Anndi said...

Ralph: The Last Post always gets me. And I remember the bagpipes being played when my uncle, who was a member of the Legion, died and was buried.

DDBG: Thank you my fellow Canadian for taking the time to read and look.

Brian: The last Canadian soldier to have fought during WWI passed a torch on to the veterans of the subsequent wars. It was a beautiful moment.

Songbird: No one can return from war untouched. For those who have returned, and for those still deployed, I wear red on Fridays.

Meri: Indeed it will... and it will be a glorious day indeed. Amen.