remembrance day - quotes and descriptions to inspire creative writing
We Canadians need another remembrance day, one for the children of the First Nations who died and suffered abuse in the residential schools. Just as we wear the poppy for fallen war heroes, perhaps we can wear a maple leaf for those children and their families, a way of showing our love and support.
Red hearts, red blood, red poppies upon Earth's breast,
Our heroes meet eternal rest.
They who fought hell's gate,
For love, for freedom and democracy's fate,
May we always recall them with full pride,
Brave warriors for whom our hearts are full wide.
Freedom bled in those red fields, freedom in democracy's good name and forever we do honour those who fell so we could rise and rise again.
Folded in the breast pocket of Edward's neatly pressed uniform is a yellowing piece of paper. It is almost falling apart along it's fold-lines. It had become wet in the trenches and the ink had run a little, making the hurried writing even harder to decipher, but he knew what every word said and what it meant to him. It had been penned by his little brother, too young to enlist, but he did it anyway. They'd signed up on the same day but been separated into different troops. He hadn't expected to die, but he'd been willing to take that chance. The day he discovered that his brother had perished amid the poppies something inside him died too. A numbness took hold of him and he was unable to cry like his mother and sister. It wasn't that he didn't feel it, he felt it too much, so much that mere tears would not assuage it. Edward had continued with his life, run a hardware store and had a family, but he kept that letter safe. "I love you, Ed. See you in heaven. Give mom a hug from me."
The veterans stand erect on aching legs in the chill that befalls this November 11. The sun shines brightly casting their sad, proud faces in sharp relief. Many of their faces bear the wrinkles of laughter lines, but today they are not furrowed but taut, stretched on this somber day. It is a testimony to their resilience, their indomitable spirit that they stand here, functioning citizens, positive role models in starch pressed uniforms and neat combed hair. They have been through hell. They have watched their comrades, their friends, die. They have suffered the hell of PTSD before it even had a name. Yet they are here to honour the fallen with a poppy on their breast and a sharp salute. Behind them march the cadets, the St John's Ambulance Brigade and the public who mourn with them and salute them. This is their day to be honoured and our day to say "thank you, we are in your debt."
World War II. Gunshots
in France ricochet across
the entire planet.
Poppies reach up from
the dead earth in expression
of hope; life can start
A cenotaph is
carved; we must remind ourselves
to never forget
new party of colors takes
a solemn stand
An entire world
remembers gunshots from long
ago. Present day.
When David's body was strong and his mind immature the army came courting. They delivered a practised image of heroism and glory, then set out standards for him to meet, he'd be lucky to be accepted to this fine institution. He was a fine boy, adored by friends, loved deeply by family. His generous spirit spilled out into all he did, he laughed freely and smiled often. And that is the man they took. What they gave back was a haunted shell too riddled with PTSD to function at any job. Along with half his left leg he had lost what had made him so David, yet we knew he was in there somewhere, dying along with the comrades he lost on the battlefield. He had given his mind and his body to defend his country, now who was there for him? Was he given time with a psychiatrist and enough mental health support to recover? Was he given adequate money to support himself at a level that was not demeaning? No, he remains trapped with his nightmares, loosing his temper, turning to drink for solace.
The poppy lies fallen on the frosted concrete, somehow detached from its wreath. Jasper stops, his aging eyes falling to the vivid red on the whitened path. This flower that has given its all so completely, bettering the world with everything it has to offer has lost it's tethers to the earth from which it came. It's days are numbered by the rise and fall of the sun. His granddaughter scoops it up and holds it to the watery light that has struggled through the thin grey scudding cloud above. It's petals shine like the glass in the cathedral, and he feels God's breath in the chill wind. Although, like this simple flower, he has lost his roots - his mother, his father, his brothers in the war - he still gives unselfishly of the beauty in his soul. He reaches out and takes her diminutive hand, warm in it's cerise mitten, and smiles at her, "Let's go for lunch, eh? I know just the place for a hot chocolate."
On any other day he sits in the nursing home playing checkers, only moving when necessary. His joints ache and his muscles are wasting, he no longer makes so many trips to the gardens. But on the morning of November 11 he is neatly dressed with a poppy pinned to his chest. What is left of his silver hair is neatly combed and he grips his walker tightly as he makes his way to the minibus. The care-aid hurries forward with a wheel chair, but seeing the look of reproach and hurt in his usually sparkling and friendly eyes, she pretends she was just parking it. He gives her a stiff nod and continues his marathon to the door. He will stand to honour them, the ones who died so brutally in the service of others until his legs cannot bear his weight. But like him they are stoic, they don't relish the pain but they endure it without complaint. There are worse things than discomfort. He barely notices the physical pain of his hands and legs, it is the mental anguish that dominates his thoughts.
The soldier stands to attention in front of the war memorial, a wreath of real poppies in his gloved hand. The brightness of the day is cruelly juxtaposed to the dark grief that churns his insides and threatens to spill onto his face. He tenses the muscles of his face, he is not ashamed to cry, but today is not about him or his grief. It is about them, the fallen. He does not want sympathy for himself, he is here to pay his respects. His thoughts swirl " Why should I be standing here when so many better men lie in foreign fields?" He has never been able accept that he is one of the finest men this country has ever produced, that he is a hero, one to respect, one to honour. His modesty forbids such ideas. He sets down flowers with military stiffness, but that is how he shows them love. His actions must be proper, correct. He takes one step back and then salutes. In the bone-chilling damp of that November 11 he remains long after the heat as abandoned his body.
I was wearing four shirts, two pairs of pants, a sweater, and a pair of woolly gloves. That didn't stop my ears from freezing as I waited patiently for the parade to start. After a meeting in a school gymnasium, we marched to the cenotaph where countless names were carved into stone. I swallowed, thinking of how each name represented somebody... somebody who had died in a war. Though the laying of the wreaths took a long time, I remembered that this was a solemn day: a day to remember, and a day to respect.