Leave the light on.

Remembrance Day here in Canada, 11/11/11. Pouring down sheets of sideways rain, with a warm wind off the sea. I think of all who went out for services, who hoped that by 11 a.m. the moment of silence for all the war dead would actually be silent, rather than whipped by wind and rain. Those hardy little Beaver and Girl Guide troops, walking alongside the veterans who get fewer and older with every passing year.

And I wondered, as I do every year, how do we explain to our young children what Remembrance Day is? How do we explain what war is? What a soldier does? How do we answer all the questions that come out of this particular day for a four-year-old and a six-year-old to understand? It is so far-removed from their reality, living as they do in Canada, in this generation. All that fear and pain and courage and unspeakable hardship and just the unknowing of what had happened to sons and daughters and fathers and friends who left and never came home. Is that something we can explain?

I remember reading at a young age about the wars, about the young soldiers who fought and died in miserable, lonely far-flung places, and being strangely fascinated. I knew my grandfather was a veteran of World War II, but he rarely spoke of his experiences there. I would see him march in the parade on Remembrance Day, with his medals on his chest. Now that he is gone I often wish that I had asked him about it more, that I had even written his stories down so they wouldn’t be forgotten, so that I could share them with my children to help them understand a little better.

Lest we forget. But somehow, even while I don’t want those sacrifices to be lost in our collective memory, I also feel so very blessed that my children don’t have to understand war, don’t have to feel the fear and uncertainty that our grandparents had to live with and that children in many parts of the world are living with right now, today.

So, the rain falls down. It seems appropriate somehow that the skies are not blue, the sun is not shining. We did not go to remembrance services, but spent the day with family, savouring a good meal together, walking in the rain, tucking our daughters into their beds and listening to make sure they get to sleep. I think my grandfather would appreciate that, and know that by going across the sea to fight for freedom that he, and all the others, won this for us.

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3 thoughts on “Leave the light on.

  1. Patricia MacDonald says:

    Steph – this is wonderfully written. You’re so good with the whole continuity thing – bringing the rain imagery in at the end as well. I wish I had seen it before I taught my 30-2 (grade 12 general) ELA class last week on Remembrance Day. We are studying the novel Fallen Angels about the Vietnam War, so it would have been doubly applicable. We did watch a CBC interview with Gen Romeo Dallaire, talking about suicides after the war. Did you know that about 58 000 soldiers died in Vietnam but over 102 000 US soldiers who served in the war have since committed suicide, likely due to severe PTSD? I find myself thinking about those stats a lot.

  2. Alison says:

    Steph I have just finally had time to sit down and read your blog. It is just fantastic and I look forward to following it in the future. It is everything that I wish I could bring into my blog, tender, true, honest and thought provoking. Your way with words is amazing. Take care.

  3. heather bell says:

    So true. And such beautiful thoughts. So glad you are venturing back out into the writing world because I am enjoying what you have to say.=) Thank you for the comments on my blog. I like to do it for myself but also love the thought that I might inspire someone else. bellesbazaar-heather.blogspot.com

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