NOVEMBER 12th, 2015
PART 1 - By LANA CARBON
This November 11th, I made a discovery…
Every year, around the first of November, I would buy my poppy to pin to my jacket and then I would continue about my business as though nothing had changed until the 11th day when we would stand for our two minutes of silence at 11:00 a.m.
When those seemingly long two minutes came to an end, it was back to work. Please don’t get me wrong, during this time I did contemplate everything those brave men and women sacrificed for our freedoms but then it was back to the daily grind as if this was merely a blip on the radar.
This all changed for me this year.
For the first time since we have been together, John took the day off from her regular gig to truly honour those who had fought so valiantly for their country. Ordinarily, she would attend a ceremony close to where she works but would then have to return to the office, quite emotional and not wanting to be there. We decided we would go to a ceremony together as I had never been to one (I am not including those school functions where we all crammed into the gymnasium and didn’t have the maturity to realize it was more than just an excuse to get out of class).
It was so interesting for me to see how serious John became about the planning. Did she have enough poppies, which was the best of the three local ceremonies, were we going too far considering she wanted to visit the cemetery where her grandfather (who fought in the Second World War) lays buried…
I started to contemplate how it must be for those people who had someone in their family who served or is serving. It started to sink in how frightened a person would be everyday that their loved one was away fighting, not knowing whether they were hurt or even alive. It made me think about the loss. The most profound realization was that it was for all of us.
This year, I watched a parade with literally hundreds of men and women in uniform gathering around one small cenotaph as veterans and community leaders laid wreaths in memory of those who died to keep us all safe and free. When it came time to bow our heads for two minutes of silence, I truly felt the waves of emotion crash over me and cried for those who came before and gave the ultimate sacrifice for all of us.
I get it now.
Thank you, John, for helping me to open my eyes. This is more than a short two minutes once a year. This is something I shall always…
PART 2 - By JOHN LILIES
November 11th is deeply important to me.
As Lana explained, my maternal grandfather fought in WWII. I don’t know where he fought. I don’t entirely know what he did though I have an idea. I don’t know what he saw but I can imagine. I don’t know whom he lost but I know he survived.
He didn’t speak of his experience in the war. Most don’t and I likely wouldn’t either.
The not knowing has plagued my adult existence thus far. I’ve tried in the past to find details on his service but have as of yet been unsuccessful.
I was 13 going on 14 when my grandfather died. I loved him dearly though I hardly knew anything about him. He was a man of few words and great love. He squashed our rib cages with the strongest bear hugs imaginable. Every ounce of love he had for his entire brood of grandchildren, showed in his eyes without any guard. He was beautiful.
He survived the war but I’m positive he lost a significant portion of self within the experience.
Growing up, my Remembrance Day involvement was much like Lana’s… Memorize and recite In Flanders Fields, stand at attention for the two minutes of silence, listen to a recording of Taps, kids sing war-related songs – and few of us truly understand what it all means.
I was in high school when it started making more of an impact on me and by college, I was wishing my grandfather had been around long enough for me to reach a mature level of awareness and ask the questions now burning a hole in my heart. To this day I feel confident he would have opened up to me.
For years as an adult, my Remembrance Day ritual consisted of a visit to my grandfather’s grave and leaving my poppy behind at his stone. Then I began incorporating a ceremony close to my office. In the two minutes of silence, I thank each person who fought and still fights. I thank my grandfather for volunteering with no guarantee of success or survival. I ask him to help me understand what he went through.
After the tragic events in Ottawa last year, shortly before Remembrance Day, I decided I would no longer work on November 11th and instead dedicate the day to attending a service or two, and continuing my tradition of hanging out with my grandfather and giving him my poppy.
This year was even more special, having the opportunity to introduce Lana to the rich and emotional experience. This year it felt more emotional than ever with the large number of participants and uniforms. This year I didn’t know if I could ever stop my tears. This year… I knew not the impact it was having on Lana and that impression has made the day immensely more important.
Thank you, Lana, for joining me and finding true meaning in the ritual of Remembrance.