Sunday, November 11, 2012

We Remember

The air was fresh and woodsy; typical for a fall day. Walking without talking, deep in thought, kicking the leaves to hear the crunch, making my way to the local Remembrance Day service.

They arrived beneath the tall pines from all directions; all ages; hundreds of people, poppies pinned, congregating in eerie silence. The wistful strains from the Salvation Army ensemble got louder upon approach.

We stood a little taller, straighter, waiting by the cenotaph. The front row was reserved for veterans, experience mapped in the lines and creases on their wizened faces. Some stood tall and proud, while others sat hunched, bundled in blankets. 

The mournful call of the bag pipes sounded in the distance, and the rhythm of the marching parade drew closer, signalling the start of the proceedings. As we sang O Canada the breeze picked up the flag that was hung at half mast.

I studied the faces of the old and the uniformed. What was going through their minds as The Last Post was played? Did memory reels of horrific and tragedy replay? I saw a lone tear roll down the cheek of a tall elderly veteran as he stood at attention, saluting. 

The weight of sacrifice hung heavy in the air, and I couldn't help be overcome with emotion. I was saddened by the waste of war; that such a sacrifice is asked of our soldiers. I mourned the lives unlived, and the lives that were devastated and forever changed by that which they endured, survived and witnessed.

The carnage and human toll of war is unfathomable. And I walked away wondering when we will collectively decide there has to be a better way to resolve conflicts. I walked away with a deep respect for the grace and honour displayed by our men and women who have served, and who serve.

And for my part, the least that I could do, was pause for two minutes under the towering pines, in the fresh autumn air to remember.

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