Live to Remember

Remembrance Day presents an interesting challenge for parents. We must walk a delicate balance between ensuring our children understand the importance of the day without bombarding them with scary images and horror stories, despite the truth in them. At this time of year, less information is more.

That doesn’t mean ignorance is bliss. As the next generation grows up, it is up to us to instill the values of respect, diplomacy, compassion and peace. It starts in our homes, in the playgrounds, even the hockey arena. 

We are the last generation to have known a World War veteran as a member of our own families, or to have realized the impact of those events on our ancestors. In my family, the World War survivors are now characters in the past, faces in photo albums. My children will never meet them. They will not have that connection to a past they cannot comprehend. I remember the curiosity of wanting to question my Granddad about war, but knowing I could not, or the way my Nana sang along when she heard The White Cliffs of Dover, and I knew she was somewhere back in time in her mind. Our children will not see the shadows in the eyes of our elders when the memories of war came. As parents, the Carpenter and I must keep their stories alive.

At the risk of having my history degree revoked, I no longer believe we need to hold on tightly to the details of war to teach our children about the past. I used to think honouring the dead meant you had to know your historical facts. I’ve changed my mind. Battles and strategies are fascinating, but that isn’t the lesson we were meant to learn. Honour isn’t in history text books. The most important thing we can teach our children is to have respect for the past to ensure peace in our future. To honour the dead, we have to live with gratitude for the gift of life and freedom.

On Remembrance Day, I think about my grandparents. What wisdom would they impart from their wartime experiences? I think of Christmas morning, when my Granddad turned up the radio so we could hear the Queen’s address because she stood for something he was willing to die for. I wonder how he was able to make life-long friends with supposed enemies in a prisoner-of-war camp. Through him I learned that humanity conquered evil, and brotherhood actually means more than flags and territories. It could again.

I think of my Nana, whose light shone on to the end of her life despite surviving years of anxiety and loss during war. What would she think of my petty fretting day to day, when she knew about bombs and food rations? When I mourn one loss, she mourned many. If Nana were here today, she’d tell me to let my children be children, because innocence doesn’t last. She would say to stop worrying about little things and slow down, young lady. She would tell me to live my life on my own terms.

This Remembrance Day, we will take out family pictures and share stories; connect the past to the present. We will give thanks for Canadian soldiers who keep peace and protect the innocent. We will take a moment in silent prayer for them all. Respect for the past, peace for the future and humanity of the heart begin at home. We will remember.


Kelly Waterhouse