Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Remembrance Day is such a peaceful day. That is kind of ironic since the point of the day is to honour those who die in conflict.

Maybe I'm wrong there.

The purpose is to honour those who have given their one, precious life so that all may have peace, all the time.

We went to the cenotaph at the Civic Center for the ceremony this morning. It always chokes me up. I see a crowd of people who gather there to pay respect. There is no big payoff for going to a Remembrance Day ceremony. There are no balloons or cake or clowns. It is a somber gathering, to stand with those who share the love of freedom and acknowledge that it came, that it still comes, at a cost.

I didn't take pictures. I can describe it though, if you have a moment to picture it for yourself.

There were about two hundred people who quietly and without fanfare gathered around the modest cenotaph in the center of the turnabout at the civic center. The sky was even a quiet, modest grey, no rain fell, no snow underfoot. It was all understated.

A schoolbus with cadets in uniform, and one of veterans, pulled up. The RCMP, in their brilliant scarlet dress and high boots, assembled and stood visiting in the minutes before the formal gathering. Some of the officers had children, who ran up to their dads, and then quietly went back to stand beside the young mothers who found a place on the curb where the children could watch.

A group of four young air cadets, the honour guard, with rifles on shoulder, did a slow, hesitating march to the cenotaph and stood at the four corners, rifle butts down, heads lowered, still.

The uniformed service men and women, RCMP and firefighters, with the cadets in formation, marched in and formed a half circle behind the cenotaph. They stood at attention.

The Captain at Arms of the local Legion was called to march the colours. He led as the flags were carried proudly forward, and they too stood at attention in front of the monument.

Taps was played, to a silent audience. The flags were slowly lowered till they were resting pointing downward. The crowd joined in singing Oh Canada, and I stood with my boys and Daniel, singing, and looking at our flag against the calm grey sky.

There was a moment of silence, unannounced but expected. We, my family, community and I, stood quietly and thoughtfully remembering and contemplating the real cost of our freedom. How the wars being fought now seem politically motivated and unpopular, but to the soldiers who are in the hot zones, it is a daily reality to fight for peace.

The bagpipes played. Is their a sadder instrument?

The Silver Cross Mother was called to lay the wreath, and as she was helped to the front of the monument, others were invited to line up behind her to place a poppy of their own. The first to move was a little girl of four or five, who went forward all alone, walking bravely up to the front of the crowd. A dozen or so little children followed, some alone, many with grandparents, and quietly added their spot of red to the stone below the cross.

"A little child shall lead them".

Then my son moved away from me and walked alone up to the cross. Daniel followed, and Josh as well. I blinked, and took the poppy off my lapel and humbly followed them.

The ceremony ended, and the crowd applauded as the flags were raised high and marched off for another year.

I always feel touched by the quietness and ceremony of the day. It's always the same. I am proud of the crowd that turned out, my community, who take a little time out of their day off and show up to support those few remaining vetrans who still make it out.

Respect is a beautiful thing to observe, and though Canadians are generally not as enthusiastic about showing their patriotism in loud and public venues, it is still special to stand shoulder to shoulder on a chilly autumn day and sing out loud for no other reason than that we appreciate those who give their lives in the service of their country.

In Flanders Fields

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.

Lt.-Col. John McCrae (1872 - 1918)

1 comment:

Karyn said...

Thank you for letting me share the ceremony.....I felt the solemnity and took a moment to again remember with gratitude those who have given their all to defend their countries - no matter the reason for the conflict.