Sunday, 11 November 2012

Remembrance Day

Tomorrow is Remembrance Day.  Today I was thinking and trying to recall my earliest memories of Remembrance Day and the importance of this day.  My earliest memories involve being at home with my mom before I was old enough to be in school.  She would gather my sister and I together and we would all sit in the living room to watch the national coverage on CBC of the Remembrance Day Ceremonies in downtown Ottawa on the black and white television.  I can remember us standing up in our living room while the national anthem was played and sung on television.  Through the observance of these ceremonies, my mother helped instill the importance of remembering the soldiers who died in WWI, WWII and the Korean War.

As a child, I also remember my mother and my grandmother making Remembrance Day come alive for me personally.  You see, my grandmother's youngest brother died on September 26, 1944 in Operation Market Garden during WWII.  My grandma didn't talk about Uncle Russell very often but when she did it was with a deep love and a sorrowful loss.  My mom always talked about how much fun he was.  He would play with her and he laughed a lot.  He apparently had a great sense of humour.  I can believe this because my other great uncles also were very witty and I did get to know them as I grew from a young child through to my adult years.  I always wondered what Uncle Russell would have been like.

Once I started school, I would always stand quietly during the moments of silence during the school Remembrance Day assemblies.  During those moments while other children shuffled their feet and fidgeted waiting for the absolute silence to end, I would try to imagine Uncle Russell.  I have always had a vivid imagination and I would imagine him in his uniform being soaked to the bone by the rain and dampness.  I would imagine him being on a boat and seeing it and him explode from whatever caused the boat to blow up and kill him.  During these moments of silence, I would then struggle to keep tears from my eyes.  I can remember asking my grandma about how she found out Uncle Russell had been killed.  She explained that my great-grandmother received notice that Uncle Russell was missing in action.  I can remember Grandma saying that was the hardest of times as the family waited and hoped that he would be found, perhaps dreadfully injured but alive and able to be sent home.  I can remember Grandma telling me that they waited and waited until one day, they received word that he had been killed in action.  Grandma didn't like to talk about those times very much because it brought back painful memories.  I am so thankful that the stories of Uncle Russell were passed down.  It allowed me to connect with the importance of Remembrance Day from the time I was a young child.  I don't come from a military family and the concept of war was foreign to me.

I've passed along the stories of Uncle Russell to my own children.  It has allowed them to also have a personal connection and realize the importance of remembering.  Once we moved to our current city, we found memorial plaques with my great-uncle's name on them.  He had lived here and this was his place of residence when enlisted.  I have made a point of showing my children Uncle Russell's name on the various plaques that I've seen.  In this way, I hope I have triggered my own children's interest in Remembrance Day.

Tomorrow, for the first time, I'll be attending the church that Uncle Russell attended in our city.  Apparently there is a stained glass window with his name on it.  It will be interesting to be there.  There will be a Remembrance Day ceremony during the service and apparently they try to make personal connections with each member of that church that died in action.  In the last number of years, my husband has taken an interest in Uncle Russell and done some research.  We have an address of where he used to live.  I like to drive by and dream of being able to own that home someday.  Perhaps because it would help forge another connection to the echoes of the man that used to wander and reside within those walls.

War is a terrible thing.  Remembrance Day ceremonies give us the opportunity to try to connect with what it was like during the various wars and to reflect on those who died in armed conflicts.

Lest We Forget.

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