Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Remembrance - Part 2

No pictures in this entry. Just more on Remembrance, partly inspired by dp's post, although I wrote and saved most of this a couple of days ago. My father was too young to enlist in WW1 and too old to go overseas, as he so hoped to do, for WW11. He proudly did his part by working as a mechanic in the army, and he regarded his training, and the friendships forged at that time, as some of the best memories of his life. I really believe November 11th was the most important day of the year for him. I was proud of him, in his carefully polished medals and spotlessly gleaming shoes, marching to the Cenotaph at the center of our small town, clicking his heels together and standing at attention as the list of those who did not come back was read. My mother would be downstairs in the school basement cafeteria, preparing sandwiches and drinks for the men after they returned from the march. It was the only time of the year when the three churches, Presbyterian, United and Catholic, joined together to remember the dead.

I can remember being conflicted about November 11th since a very young child. I believed with my whole heart that I must honor my father’s pride in Canada’s contribution to the war, but mostly, I wanted to think that the day was one to hope for peace. With each year, I slowly came to fear that my thoughts and those of my adored father were very different. I will never know for sure, since I understood, in that way that kids do, that there would be no talking about it. For as long as he lived, he never missed a Remembrance Day service, and I, in my desire to honor him, made it a priority to be there if at all possible. Part of the reason I appreciate my present school’s efforts to go all out in preparing the annual assembly, is because I know it would please my father.

I can't forget the men who sacrificed so much, but a feeling in the pit of my stomach will not go away. Words in the letter from David Hazzard, February 25, 1943, posted in the Globe and Mail today, seem timed to remind me of that unease. He says, “… in all my life, I’ve never seen anything so badly mismanaged and inefficiently run as this place. If I were to express myself fully and give examples, and if the censors saw the letter, I’d probably be shot at sunrise.” Joseph Boyden, in his novel, Three Day Road, compounds my unease. I guess I want the simplistic fairy tale hero, but there are no fairy tales in war – just human beings with all kinds of motivations, and the perfect situation to bring out both the best and the worst of humanity. My deep respect and thanks to those who were committed to protecting our freedom and the lives of the innocent and who did the best they could, without, as dp says. "respecting the act of war itself." Sadly, though, "lest we forget" must not stop there. It is the best reason to cherish Remembrance Day, but only until we somehow find another way than war as the ultimate negotiation in conflict.


  1. Well put, Carol. And I think your point about Remembrance Day being a day to hope for peace is both excellent and true. One thing about Remembrance Day is that it generates stories about war in the past and the present, and my dearest hope is that most people (children and adults alike) hear those stories and think that war is nothing but base human madness. That's how I first became to believe that war is madness, anyhow.

  2. well put Carol. Three Day Road also really brought it home for me recently and I also hope that the day of rememberance is one that makes us universally work towards peace as we look back on our mistakes.