The going down of the sun

Today’s Remembrance Day services in Ottawa offered a number of new sights. There was a new prime minister and his wife who wore a hat straight out of Downton Abbey, a new Sikh minister of defence who served in Afghanistan and a new minister of veterans affairs in a wheelchair. But it wasn’t the new I sought. It was the War Memorial itself, the silver cross mother, the twenty-one gun salute, the children’s choir and the aged faces of veterans.

I never lost a loved one in any war. Oh, I had an uncle and and an aunt who served and came safely home. And as a boy growing up in Guelph there was a neighbourhood couple who used to tell me about their only child, Kenneth Macalister, a member of the Special Operations Executive. He parachuted into France, was captured, and died in Buchenwald, hung on a meat hook. Of course, Colonel John McCrae, author of In Flanders Fields, was born in Guelph. So I have connections, but not enough to cry about. Yet every year I always cry when I watch the televised proceedings.

I cry at the sound of The Last Post. I cry at the Piper’s Lament. I cry because so many thousands died for their country. Once a year we are all transported to a sacred place of memories we never had by people we never knew who did impossible tasks we cannot fully comprehend. My tears are not enough but they are all I have.

The Bible tells us, “Those who sow with tears will reap with songs of joy.” Maybe tomorrow.


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