Monday, October 15, 2018

What Remembrance Day Should Be About





The days are getting shorter. The leaves have almost reached their peak and have started to gently fall from the trees. 
  
The fall decorations have been replaced in the stores by Christmas lights and baubles. 
  
And the whispers of discontent have begun. In another week those whispers will increase to a buzz that will eventually morph into heated arguments. 
  
How quickly we forget how much we have to be grateful for. How quickly we refocus our attention on criticizing others. 

How quickly we forget what this time should really be about it. 

And who it should be about. 
  
I’ve come to dread this time of year, this time between Thanksgiving and Remembrance Day. 

A time when my heart becomes heavier. 

While everyone becomes so consumed by their righteousness, however well-intentioned it may be, I have to wonder. 
  
Because sometimes it seems like I hear more about the rightness and wrongness of Christmas lights and decorations or I hear more anti-Remembrance Day propaganda than I do about the actual people we are supposed to be Remembering and honouring. 
  
When did all of this stuff become the most important things we focus on in November? 
  
And I wonder. Do they truly comprehend the enormity of it all? 

But how could they really, how could anyone if they’ve never lived it firsthand. 

You can have glimpses, absolutely. I did on all of those Remembrances Days past. 

But standing at the cenotaph as a wife is nothing like standing there as a widow.  
  
It’s nothing like being the person who lives with the loss every single day. 

Not just on one dreary day in November. But on all of the days. 
  
For so many of us, too many of us, every day is Remembrance Day. 
  
So over the next few weeks, while my newsfeed fills with anti-Remembrance Day and anti-military articles, with debates about the red poppy glorifying war and the white poppy of peace, and with arguments about Christmas lights being disrespectful, and the value of the Legion, those won’t be the things I’m focused on. 
  
Instead, I’ll be here trying to decide if today is the day I’m actually ready to visit my husband’s grave at the National Military Cemetery. 

I haven’t been there since the day he was buried four years ago. I’ve been to his private grave at home in Nova Scotia. But not here. 

I haven’t been able to go there yet. 
  
Here is so much heavier. Because It is laden with the grief of an entire regiment. And so many painful memories. 
  
Do I go today? Do I go alone? 
  
I could ask my son or my friend who was Dan’s Battery Sergeant Major or any one of my friends to go with me, but I know how hard it would be for them to bear witness to my grief. 
  
And some journeys, the hardest ones, you have to make on your own. 
  
Those are the questions I’ll be asking myself. Not, why does my neighbour have Christmas lights up?

When I go to his grave for the first time, I will undoubtedly relive that day.

Some memories are indelibly etched on your soul.

And as I stand in front of that granite headstone, my fingers tracing our name, I will see and feel it all.

I will see my own sadness reflected in my friend’s eyes as he passes me a crisply folded flag, tears flowing freely down his cheeks.

I will fill the dirt slipping through my fingers. Earth to earth, ashes to ashes, dust to dust.

I will hear echoes of the Last Post as soldiers two-by-two salute their commanding officer’s grave, their eyes avoiding mine lest they not be able to contain their own emotions.
   
I will remember the heat and humidity. My feet were so swollen and sore, my shoes pinched my toes with every step. I just wanted to rip them off but I couldn’t. I had to teeter on through the pain.
   
Just as I would on so many days in the months and years to come.

And I will remember how exhausted I was and how I just wanted it to be all over. Not knowing that it is never, really over.
  
Please let it be over now. I can’t do this another day.
   
I just want to go home. Even though home will never be the same.

The next time you come across a meme or post about Remembrance Day, before you comment or share, or argue with a friend or neighbour I hope you pause for a moment.

Pause for a moment and remember what it’s truly about. Who it’s truly about.

And ask yourself— is what you’re sharing really honouring those who have died and those they left behind?
  
Pause.

Remember them.

And remember, somewhere out there, there is a widow trying to work up the courage to visit a cemetery.
   
Isn’t that what it should really be about?

  
Read Monica's thoughts on War Memorials in Odes to Our Fallen   

To learn more about grief, resiliency, and life after loss, follow Monica on Facebook at A Goat Rodeo
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