While I was thinking about what I might write in my Remembrance Day piece I found my thoughts and feelings going in a million different directions. It left me reeling. Try as I might I could not rein in those thoughts. How to capture my thoughts about something that conjures up so many not so positive feelings was the problem. How do I talk about remembering those who have lost their lives in the many wars of our world without clouding this remembrance with my feelings about why they lost their lives in the first place? Let’s face it I am not a fan of war in any shape or form. I have strong feelings about war and its impact.
So I will try to keep it simple. Do I like war? NO! Do I understand why we go to war? NO! Do I like the far-reaching impact of war? NO! Do I care about the people, us who have been impacted by war? ABSOLUTELY! Do I grieve for those who have lost their lives in war? ABSOLUTELY!
I have consciously or unconsciously tried to stay outside of the Remembrance Day ceremonies thinking that it also kept me somewhat distanced from the memories and the pain associated with it. But I have thought about it more in the last few years and now realize that I cannot truly ignore the remembering. The booming of the canons cannot be ignored. It is time for me to acknowledge and to remember.
What does the signature red poppy bring to mind? As a child in elementary school I remember observing the day in school and not really understanding the significance. I remember seeing the pride in the eyes of my Uncles smartly dressed in the uniform of the war veteran. I remember the faces of the honor guard of veterans at an Uncle’s funeral, honoring him but also remembering their shared experiences in war. I think of all the young men and women whose lives have been lost or forever altered as a result of their participation in wars. I remember and respect their courage and good intentions. I pay my respects to those young men and women who have lost their lives in the wars that continue to be fought today and to those who remain at risk. Except that is not all that this day is about for me.
What else do I remember, and feel when I see the signature red poppy? Personally I remember about the courage and pain that my father, his father and the rest of his family had to face when the family was torn apart in WWII. I feel the pain that my mother lived as a result of my father’s wounded spirit. I am reminded and honour the pain and losses that my family in Ukraine experienced in several wars. I remember the many stories of pain and suffering that my mother-in-law and her family went through as a result of WWII. I imagine the courage and torment of the father-in-law that I never met as he left this world too early, an after-the-war war casualty.
More generally I am reminded of all the other families who experience heartbreaking losses in various wars. I am also reminded of the courage and incredible losses suffered by too-many-to-count people across the numerous concentration and prisoner of war camps around the world. I shared some of my feelings that were evoked through a recent visit to the site of the Auschwitz-Birkenau concentration camps in Poland, now a museum, in a previous post (Learning lessons? October 25, 2011). Finally I am reminded of the ripple effects of the loss of lives that we pay tribute to on Remembrance Day.
I remember my feelings of grief in being in close physical proximity to the deaths of two young men (Sunday sadness, November 7,2011) and double over in grief remembering that the losses in our wars are a thousand-fold. When I see a red poppy I remember this grief.
When I see a white poppy I see hope. I see a chance for peace no matter how foolish that may sound. I also see many other hopeful things that my friend Ted has so eloquently written about in his latest newsletter/blog. If you have a chance or the inclination, have a look at it. www.peacebeginswithmeblog.blogspot.com
Irene McDermott © 2011