Thursday, November 11

day 10206: remembrance

For twenty six years Remembrance Day meant nothing to me. November 11, a day for poppies, a day of school assemblies, a day with a moment of silence for a war I did not understand. A war I never really cared to understand.

And why should I? I didn't know anyone who had fought in it. I barely knew anyone who had lived through it. Only vague stories from my grandmother hinting at battle with the Japanese. But nothing ever confirmed. Nothing bad ever spoken of - ever.

Sure, I watched the old black and white films, learned about it somewhat in history class. Understood that yes, there was a war, but who cared, no big deal, wars happen all the time... people die but life goes on with or without them. Very callous, I know. I watched the parades, saw the pictures in the newspapers of the veterans. Didn't give them a second glance before I turned to the comics or the social studies column. I didn't like war... I didn't want to know about it. I didn't care to know about it.

Until last year. France. Juno Beach. Dieppe war museum.

Sobering rainy day on Juno Beach where the Canadian contingents landed on D-Day so many years ago to play their part in liberating the world from the forces of evil. We walked the steps of the soldiers who had gone before us. Tracing the paths of the fallen, imagining the blood that ran deep into the sands.

Bo and Unsanitary Man had printed out passages for us to read while on the beach. And though, I initially though it somewhat hokey, I played along. The mist turned into rain and blended with my tears as the reality of the past sank in. Our sheets of paper melted away into unrecognizable clumps of pulp and fiber. And still we stood there in the pouring rain. Imagining what the fate of the world would have been had they not fought for freedom.

Moments of silence. Moments of remembrance.

The waves came in gently on the sand. The tide rose washing away the footprints we left behind, and still we stood there, each going our separate ways. Lost in thought. Lost in remembrance. Soaked to the skin. Rain and tears dripping down our faces.

On our way to the car, I picked up a pebble. No bigger than a walnut. It was brown and clear and had the glossy sheen of glass. I dropped it on another rock and it smashed open into three pieces... easily. The beach was littered with them... little pieces of rock that broke as easy as glass. Almost as if the forces of man, and the impact of war, the bombs on the beach had turned the grains of sand into glass. I put the pieces into my pocket and brought them home with me... and remember every time I fit the pieces together...

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.

~ Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)

Remember, my friends, remember.

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