Tuesday, November 11, 2008
Thank you veterans!!
It's Remembrance Day again. I've just watched the national ceremony from the Cenotaph in Ottawa, and again I found myself shedding tears for the thousands of strangers who lived through horrible experiences so I could live my convenient life. A few things really stood out for me this year.
-In London, the Canadian Embassy (Canada House) in Trafalgar Square projected the names of every Canadian soldier who died in the First World War, in a continuing cycle for eight days, leading up to Remembrance Day. The same thing was timed for sites in Toronto, Montreal and Vancouver. The tribute was designed by a Canadian actor. Well done-it looked like a beautiful and moving tribute.
-This year for the first time, an Aboriginal veteran offered a tribute in Ojibway. I didn't understand the words, but his tone and expression said it all, and the Ojibway sounded like a mysterious song.
-I used to question the value of ceremony, but it struck me how quickly and thoroughly animosity melts away when people join together for a common purpose; in this case, to honour veterans. People who normally resent each other for their language, race and beliefs immediately forget all that and honour each other the way they should all year round. I wonder how else we can keep reminding ourselves of how great this felt?
-The Chaplain who led the prayers began by saying "I ask you to pray to God in the way you understand Him, as I pray through my savior Jesus Christ". I thought that was a wonderfully inclusive statement, "...in the way you understand Him". Nothing about "I'm right and you're wrong", just an accceptance that we all have our way of understanding the "big mystery".
-It's apparently becoming a tradition, after the offical wreaths are laid at the Cenotaph in Ottawa, for visitors to leave their poppies (small poppy pins Canadians wear as a tribute, offered by Veterans groups, for people reading this from outside Canada) on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, and at the grave marker on display at the National War Museum. No-one told the public to do this, they just started doing it spontaneously. I think that's the greatest tribute of all-nothing orchestrated, just a little tribute from the heart. It reminds me of the Jewish tradition of leaving a small stone at a grave side to mark that someone had come to visit. Beautiful stuff.
-So there you go, it's 11:17am as I'm finishing this up; the tributes are ending with parades and celebrations. I don't know how many people actually read this stuff I write, but today I'm glad I had the opportunity to write it down. Thanks for everything, veterans.