I just finished watching the National Remembrance Day Ceremony which took place downtown at the Canadian War Memorial. Thirty thousand people attended–we decided not to go, though we had originally planned to do so.
This is always a moving ceremony, made more poignant for me this year because Canadians are fighting in Afghanistan and 156 of them have lost their lives in that conflict. Young widows with their fatherless children were there today, and as the cameras swept their faces, not even sunglasses could disguise their sorrow. Young soldiers just in from combat fought back tears, their sense of loss and horror too fresh in their minds.
It was all very stirring. The bright red of the poppies against the impossibly blue sky… The glint of polished brass on spotless uniforms… Chestsful of ribbons and medals, each representing a battle or an act of heroism unseen by those on whose behalf it was selflessly performed… Mournful songs sung in English and French by the Ottawa Children’s Choir…The 21-gun salute performed by bellowing Howitzers…The Maple Leaf at half-staff atop the Peace Tower…The lone piper in full regalia playing “Piper Lament” and the pipes and drums playing “Amazing Grace”…
But it was the faces of the old soldiers that moved me–faces now mottled and creased with age. Their eyes–some as clear as the cloudless sky today and some overcast with years–their eyes were full of memories. Not memories of big bands and hoo-doo’s in the Officer’s Club, but memories of hardship and uncertainty, of danger and pain, of sudden loss and unspeakable anguish. I don’t think it’s possible to get that look out of the eyes of a seasoned warrior. Ever.
I thank God today for those who willingly gave their lives for my freedom, both here and in the United States. This Remembrance Day I am prompted to contemplate two other things, as well:
First, how can we so willingly give our lives so that others can enjoy the freedoms that our own government would take from us? And second, am I as willing to give myself for eternal Truth as these brave warriors were for earthly freedom?
Lest we forget.