One hundred years suddenly dissolve, discovering the soldier’s letters from France sent to a sister in Ontario, Canada. I have fallen into a rabbit hole, stumbling on these letters submitted on the Canadian Great War project. http://canadiangreatwarproject.com/index.asp.
Something about seeing the hand-writing of this young soldier touches directly into my heart.
Looking through some old photos with my mother, we came across pictures of my grandmother’s youngest brother. Through the sepia tones, there is a glimpse of his brief life. In a studio photo, he has long hair to his shoulders of a boy and dressed in his fine clothes.
My eyes continue to return to a casual photo with my great uncle dressed in preparation to go to war, standing alongside his mother and the family dog wandering around their feet. I knew very little about him except that he always had a very special place in my grandmother’s heart. He never returned, killed at age twenty, “died from wounds” October 5, 1916.
The record shows my great uncle’s trade or calling as an apiarist, a beekeeper. “He had enlisted November 1, 1915, and served with the 5th Canadian Mounted Rifles (Quebec Regiment) on the Somme front. Having taken part in actions around Courcelette, his unit was in Albert on the day he died. 150 men were working on repairs on the Albert-Bapaume road under sporadic shellfire.” (Research by David O’Mara).
It is the letters that capture the reality of being on the front. The soldier writes the letter lying on an oiled cloth on the ground and sharing a tent with many men.
Armistice Day was first commemorated at the Buckingham palace the year following the end of world war one. The use of the term Remembrance day began during the second world war. In the United States, it is called Veterans Day and many other countries beyond the commonwealth pay tribute to this event.
“Poppy day” is an informal name given to this day. A thick bloom of poppies, Papaver rhoeas, would appear over old battlegrounds documented as far back as the Napoleonic wars and immortalized in the poem Flanders Field by a Canadian physician, Dr, John McCrae.
An artificial poppy now blooms on the lapels of our jackets or coats, beginning eleven days before the“eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month.” It is worn showing support for the armed forces community, includes current members, veterans and their families, as a symbol of remembrance and hope.
I am wearing the poppy this year with a special connection. This Remembrance Day, my young nephew begins his training for the Canadian Arm Forces in Montreal, Quebec. His family sent him off this weekend with wishes of safety and health.
The story is about the global human condition. Deep within us, our true nature is peace or tranquillity. The tricky part is remembering. We all wish to feel safe and to be healthy. We want to experience peace and happiness. We all want to live with ease.
My wish for today is to remember, with the hope for world peace.