Remembrance Week 2020
We are the dead, Short days ago
We lived, felt dawns, saw sunsets glow;
Loved and were loved – but now we lie
In Flanders Field
At the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month in 1918, armistice was declared and the Great War, also known as World War I, ended. In 2020, we mark the 102nd anniversary of the end of the Great War, which was touted to be the war to end all war. Yet, in 2020 we also celebrate the 75th anniversary of the end of World War II. So many wars on so many fronts.
The start of the second decade of the 21st Century is exacerbating, relentless and exhausting as we witness nations implode politically, fear dominate societies, wars erupt spasmodically, and the world battle a pandemic that defies cure. We mask. We distance. We miss families and friends. The life and death battle takes place in our homes. Yet, despite being battered and bruised, remembrance is our hope for the future.
November 11 is the day we remember with gratitude those who died in wars and conflicts. Somewhat paradoxically, we may even believe that those who died were the lucky ones; their war ended. But those who survived are the unlucky ones; they relive the horrors of war each night and day. It is those who survived whom we need to remember as much as those who died. Death and remembrance, horror and relief lay heavy on the soul of nations. Gratitude is the only real and acceptable response.
Many years ago, I took up photography more as a diversion than a hobby. The camera “takes me for walks” and among my regular destinations is Prospect Cemetery on the west side of Toronto. A special section is devoted to the youth who grew up in this part of Toronto and who died in war. History rests here in the quiet of shade trees.
Prospect is old. Headstones are weathered and worn. One such headstone is a beacon I return to often. It is a “family plot” that encapsulates the history that we need to remember. In loving memory of a devoted mother who died in 1930 at the age of 87, and of a loving father who died in 1942 at the age of 80. These were the strong stock of turn turn-of-the-century Toronto. But the heartfelt record that causes me to pause in stunned silence is this:
- Son Peter died 1914, age 27, as the war began
- Son Harry died 1916, age 16, the influenza pandemic of the young
- Son Alex died 1917, age 33, killed in action and buried in France
- Son George died 1929, age 35, buried in soldiers plot after surviving the war at age 24
Mother and Father lived long and fruitful lives only to have their happiness wiped out by war and disease. I return to this graveside often to remember that my freedom is built on the lives of those young men. I live in the shadow of their history.
Whether you think war is just or not is irrelevant. Remembrance is about those who died and those who live emotionally and physically wounded. It is not about the morality of war and conflict. Remembering the dead allows them to live, and it may even allow the wounded potentially to heal.
Be respectful and be kind. Hatred and despite have too long held sway.
The Logistics Institute