Day 2274 – Day 2279
We are born in an instant, we fall in love in an instant and we die in an instant. It is the stories we tell that connect these moments into a lifetime worth remembering.
When I met my Belgian ex-boyfriend, I had some idea of how his mind worked and I had expectations of him based on his age, education and culture. He dismantled a lot of those expectations. I remember waiting for him just outside the Grote Market in Antwerp, standing under the giant statue of Rembrandt. I didn’t recognize him at first. He was so much more handsome in person and the shock caused me to drop my bag full of my day’s shopping. But I didn’t fall in love then. It was only when we were sitting in a pub, hours later, after a lovely Tanzanian dinner, a walk beneath the river to view the city, and a stop at another watering hole, that it happened. And it happened when he said these words: I love Canadians. We owe everything to Canadians. They liberated us in World War I and we don’t forget that here.
My grandfather fought in WWI. I was told, or remembered or mis-remembered, perhaps, that he was a tail gunner in the war. I didn’t grow up with my grandparents as a frequent part of my life so I’m sure my cousins will know more of the truth of that story. But my grandfather served in two wars and I had uncles that were also in the military. I am always so grateful for their service and their sacrifices.
Today is Armistice Day or what we call Remembrance Day in Canada. All of the Commonwealth remembers this day on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of the year. 11:11:11. Take that, Twin Flame community.
On the other side of my family, I come from a community of pacifists and among them would have been conscientious objectors and many who see the wearing of a poppy of remembrance as a symbol that glorifies war. I’m grateful that my mother was not one of them and so I wore the red poppy every year like all the other children in school and I prayed along with them for the fallen soldiers of all wars. I don’t glorify war and I do remember the soldiers who were undoubtedly crying for their mothers or sweethearts in those scary trenches just before going over the top and too often, to their death.
I’m grateful that my Belgian ex-boyfriend took me to the poppy fields of Flanders, to a preserved section of the trenches of the Ypres Salient, to the Tyne Cot cemetery full of commonwealth soldiers who gave their lives, to the In Flanders Fields museum in Ypres (Ieper) and to the Menin Gate at 8 pm for Last Post. I cannot hear the trumpet call of Last Post without crying for all the sacrifice of lives and our continued warring nature. Oh, I’m grateful that I was able to see the places I learned of as a child and hear the stories of ordinary young men and women whose lives were torn apart by war. I’m grateful to have had the opportunity to walk through a section of the trenches and imagine the horror of wet feet for months, rats running about and the prospect of death, over the top. I’m grateful for the story of the Christmas cease fire, where Germans and the Commonwealth and American soldiers played football instead of shooting one another. That one story gives me hope that peace can happen, even in my lifetime.
I hear a lot about “letting go of our stories”. I get where this is coming from and it’s noble to want to achieve our highest potential and remove our limiting beliefs about ourselves. But, as we remove our limiting beliefs we must remember not to remove the empowering stories of who we are. In the words of my friend and fellow writer, TCBC, it is our stories and our ability to tell stories that makes us human.
I am the granddaughter of a war hero and the great great niece of a martyr to pacifism. The story of my ancestors shaped me into an open-minded and tolerant person. As I age, I become naturally less tolerant than I was at one time but I’m more tolerant than many who are just starting in life. I appreciate that about myself and I know that it is one source of equanimity in my life. As we remember them, those who have fallen, it would do them a disservice NOT to seek to be more tolerant of one another, more cooperative towards achieving common goals and values and more earnest in our efforts to wage peace.