Today is Remembrance Day. As I mentioned last week, we began church 1/2 hour early so that we could join the ceremonies at our local Cenotaph, just a block up the street. It was the first time since I’ve been in Canada that I attended the actual community-based service on November 11. It wont’ be the last.
We live outside a small town of about 8,000 people. A good number came out this chilly morning – my guesstimate is that between 400-500 folks were present at the Cenotaph. There were prayers, readings, a brass band playing hymns in the background as a number of wreaths were placed at the monument. It seems that every church, every civic organization, every school, and a number of businesses all place wreaths – my friend told me that the businesses who lay wreaths typically lost an employee to military action. A lone bugler played The Last Post, Canada’s final military call – like Taps in the U.S. (As an aside, it’s also the first function I’ve attended in Canada in which God Save the Queen was sung. I can make it through O Canada, but didn’t have a clue about the words to God Save the Queen – and didn’t think they’d appreciate My Country Tis of Thee, which is the same tune.)
The respect, the reverence was deep. The only sounds, other than the speaker and the muted band, were the sounds of very young children – it was very much a family affair. I suspect that the basic format hasn’t changed in decades, and that’s okay. And a similar service is held in virtually every hamlet, village, town, and city throughout Canada. It does effectively focus one’s attention on the sacrifices of those who have defended freedom over the years.
My folks were part of that effort. They met during World War II while both were stationed at O’Reilly General Hospital in Springfield, Missouri; my mother an Army nurse, my father a Special Services Officer. (My father wonderfully described my mother, and recounted their courtship and wedding in a letter to his brother, a letter that my cousin read at my Mom’s memorial service, and reprinted here.) Since I’ve become more sensitized to the contributions of my parents’ generation, for the past several years on November 11 I’ve written a note to Mom telling her how much I appreciated her efforts, and the efforts of Dad and others of her generation.
I’m sad that I can’t write her that note this year. And I’m sad that I never thought about thanking my Dad when he was still alive.
Thanks, Mom & Dad. And thanks, all veterans world-wide.