Remember

I believe in rite and ritual. It's hard to go through 4 years of anthropology courses and not recognize it's significance.

Today is Remembrance Day. A few hours from now will find me bundled against the cold, umbrella in hand standing in front of the War Memorial at Old City Hall. I will watch veterans match. I will see the CWACS and wonder if I would have been part of them (unlikely...unless I was already enrolled in university...otherwise I likely would have been a labourer). I will slightly giggle at the over-the-top hats of, I believe, The Knights of Columbus.

I will look around and see far too few people my age. I will wonder yet again how so few people my age remember... There will be many elderly woman. I will wonder if they lost a husband, brother, father, sweetheart. I will see elderly men who do not march although they wear Canadian Legion insignia. I will see younger men, older than me but not elderly, in uniform and wonder how they came to be there. I will notice the pin that will tell me what unit they are part of and wonder why they are there. I will see blue berets and wonder exactly which peace-keeping mission they took part in. I will see the children that struggle to behave and stay quiet during the speeches. I wonder if there will be many children today. Many attend these ceremonies for school and today these is none.

I will hold my programme for the ceremony in the hand that does not carry my umbrella. I will follow along. I will sing hymns when we are asked to sign hymns. I will pray when asked to pray (yes you read that right, I will pray). I will recite In Flanders Fields. I will be silent for two minutes at 11am to remember.

I will remember the innocence of the boys, for that's what they were, in 1914 whose answer to our imperial "grey mother" was "Ready, aye, ready." I will remember the women they left behind. I will remember that it was during the Great War that women got the vote and be reminded to never waste mine. I will remember the boys, yes again boys, who in 1939 when Canada, for the Great War had also made us our own nation, asked them this time, to go oversees who said, "I will". I will think of the mothers who sent their children off to war as they had their brothers and sweethearts a mere 20 years earlier. I will think of the Canadians who have died in Afghanistan recently (and please, if you don't believe they should be there hold your comments for today...today is for remembering that they were there and that they died and to honour that, they deserve a day to be honoured and not debated). And I will think of my grandfather.

In the Second World War my grandfather served as a Merchant Marine. He has wanted the Navy but he was colour-blind and that disqualified him. But being a seafaring man, he found himself a spot on supply ships. On them he sailed to the South Seas, bringing back two phenomenal conch shells in which you can hear the ocean from which they came. Supply ships were targets. My grandfather was apparently born under a lucky star. I have copies of his service records and for a course project I once had to do research. Within 6 months of his discharge all of the ships were torpedoed. Several sank. In one there was a loss of life of more than 200 men. When he was not on service boats he worked as a porter on the troop trains. When I was younger he was one of the most important people in my life and I was very lucky to have him until I was 13. I have two items that were given to me after his death. One of them dates back to this period in his life and I will carry it with me today.

I will listen to the Last Post, possibly the most mornful sound produced by an instrument, and stuggle not to tear up. It doesn't matter where I hear that...it can be on the radio or the tv, but it's like a punch in the gut every time.

I will watch the fly by over city hall, with one plane breaking formation to signify the fallen.

I will wear my poppy.

I will remember. Because that is part of my responsibility as a citizen. It's part of my responsibility as someone who has lived after and who knows that my freedoms have come at a cost to others. It is my debt to them.

Today I will not break faith.