Tuesday, November 10, 2009

Lest We Forget

I remember, fondly, the days of elementary school when we would gather in our tiny gymnasium to pay homage to those soldiers who so bravely gave their lives for the freedoms we take for granted everyday. We would carry wreaths and crosses adorned with tissue paper shaped like poppies and recite "In Flander's Fields." An entire morning, if not more, was dedicated to remembering and honouring our ancestors and war veterans. I recall spending weeks in preparation for this day and I would proudly wear my poppy over my heart.

As the years of my childhood passed and I slowly but surely made the transition into highschool and, eventually, University, this day became somewhat elusive. Highschool Remembrance Day mornings would include a ceremonial bag pipe rendition and a moment of silence over the announcement system. Then, in University, nothing at all.

I understand the importance of teaching our children to remember and honour our dead. They are impressionable and their innocence allows them to take life as something playful. We need to teach them that their freedoms and rights were paid for dearly. It seems, however, that as we grow older we, too, forget these things. Less emphasis is put on the importance of this day. We may have a moment of silence, here and there, but there are no images, no recitals of poems, no carrying of crosses. We simply expect that people will pay tribute in their own special way when, in reality, they likely won't. Remembrance Day becomes just another day in our calendar.

So, this year, in my effort to pay my respects, I will recite that poem by John McCrae that was once so vivid in my vocabulary. I will remember.

In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.