I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I walked through the door of the church I was christened in, but when I saw the sign outside saying “Open for Prayer,” it was an invitation I felt called to accept.
I’d been standing outside in the cool November afternoon, photographing the Poppy Project display of hand crocheted poppies strewn together, draping from the sides of the historic steeple down to the leaf-covered lawn. I take this photo every year. It’s one of the personal ways I mark the coming of Remembrance Day.
How we remember is important. Like walking through the downtowns across Wellington County, seeing the Remembrance Day banners and feeling that sense of hometown pride. Each one puts a face and name to someone who once walked those same sidewalks, rode through those same streets, shopped our historic downtowns. Our home was their home.
Then one day, they went off to fight in a war, the darkness and trauma of which they couldn’t even possibly conceive, at a time in their lives where a sense of duty was likely backed by a sense of adventure, a way out of the small-town life, because they didn’t know what they’d signed up for. How could they know? Smiling, healthy, confident faces so proud of their uniforms and so innocent of their fate.
While those faces represent loss, they also remind me of hope. That we remember them, honour them, talk of them, fills me with a sense of gratitude that we continue to acknowledge their service and sacrifice. Those faces, those names, their stories, how they lived and how they died, and how they are remembered matters. Generations deep, we carry their legacy forward.
What would they make of the world today? Imagine seeing the images of wars raging in real time as their great-great grandchildren now do. Crimes against humanity. Brutality for the sake of territory. Religion as a weapon. Hate speech under the guise of populism, claiming the freedom our veterans fought for as a defence. Gross. My grandfathers and my brother-in-law didn’t lay their lives on the line in battle to have hate take root in our nation’s soil. This I know.
Our might as a nation came long before our flag was created, long before stronger nations joined the fight, when we were united in creating a history that would become uniquely Canadian. Blood and courage in the trenches, in the seas, in the skies. That’s where your freedom was born. Don’t forget it.
In the acoustic silence of the church, surrounded by stained glass windows and images of saints, I gave up trying to make sense of the world, and let the thoughts of gratitude and generational grief run their course. I prayed for peace where there is none. I prayed for hope where there is none. For light where there is darkness. For humanity to heal. I thanked the veterans whose blood lines helped birth my proudly Canadian heart.
Alone in that sacred space it felt foreign, yet familiar. Safe. Time well spent. I placed money in the coffers, gladly, leaving lighter in spirit. Money well spent.
Faith, like remembrance, is a deeply personal experience. I’m grateful for the open invitation. And I’m thankful for the solitude in a noisy world. Keeping the faith.
Lest we forget.