Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Between the crosses, row on row.....

The poem "Flanders Fields", written by Canadian John McCrae is permanently etched into the recesses of my mind, back to a time of relative innocence, when my socks had to match my prep-tacular shirt and sweater set, and the day was ruined if Dreamy-Mc-Acne failed to say hello or I lost my LipSmacker on the bus.
I can distinctly recall the lead up to November 11th every year, as the teacher would try and convey the curriculum-centered content regarding Remembrance Day. The smell of chalk and industrial floor cleaners engulfing us as we tested out the patience of the 'still-newish' instructor, & half-heard the history lesson whilst reading the note a friend passed and contemplated whether or not that special pre-pubescent 'someone' might say something in the field during lunch. And then when volunteers were required to read this poem, my hand would shoot up, and that, along with sporting a poppy, would be my contribution to our Elementary School Remembrance Day Ceremony.
Although that kind of makes me cringe now, to realize how removed from it I was, I also have the presence of mind to thank the heavens above that I was privileged and lucky enough to have been born in a time and place that allowed me that luxury. I can vaguely remember returning from a movie night in town with a group of friends to see my Mom & Dad watching what I initially thought was just a show; it turned out to be the first Gulf War. Once again, the kalidascope through which I peered was coloured by the warm embrace of the fireplace, the security of both parents being home, together, watching the news describe the conditions of a place that might as well have been Lilliput for all my geographically dense brain could comprehend. It was "wow, that's terrible" & "those poor people", but truly nothing more entrenched than that.
I would be remiss if I were to lead you to believe that I don't care about others; nothing could be further from the truth. Even then, my parents taught us that it was more important to give, then to receive and that giving back to the community and those less fortunate was your duty. Soup kitchens, volunteering, giving money.... all those wonderful, and yet still wonderously removed endevors.
Not to seem like a cliche, but for me, September 11th was what brought war as close to home here in Canada as it had ever been for me. I will never forget working in a psychiatric hospital, and the cold-water-replacing-blood-in-my-veins as nurses and patients alike held hands around a television in the common room. Channeling 'Chicken Little' and wondering was the sky really falling and were we next? That womb-like safety that I had been carried in since birth was shattered, and since then, I can happily say that I do not feel as removed from the rest of the world on a day like today.
And that's a good thing.
Now when I hear those famous words:
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.
the overwhelming thought in my mind was the viceral image of those brilliantly vibrant poppies, splashing the ground with the very colour of life, as I looked out the window, marked by condensation, and looked at the brownish-gray sky shadowed thinly by leafless trees.
Today, when I bowed my head and recited along, I tried to think of all those baby-faces on the news, all 97 Canadians to date, and the hundreds of thousands of others, from each "side", and I tear up because I know that "this" is the price of war. The faces of men and women, usually not even my age yet, and I know that I can never again hide in the cocoon of innocence. I do not have the right. I might disagree with why this war was started, and wish to God above for the answer to the problem of how to extradite our troops and still ensure that the promise of peace has the chance to flourish. But personal beliefs aside, it is those faces, and the lives that they represent and the veterans that they join, in this world, and the next, that I must never, NEVER forget.
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields

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