Every year the debate rages about when is it acceptable to decorate for Christmas. The thought is that before Remembrance Day is disrespectful of all those who fought in the war and lost their lives. I will admit it is a valid point to consider in contemplating when we could put up lights, trees, decorations, and all the related paraphernalia. I think sometimes though we fail to see the big picture. These men, women and children put their lives on the line in the fight to ensure freedom. We often forget that there were women and children who lost their lives both fighting and as civilians.
I think a good place to look is at how people in general deal with death. Many families deal with death in a very somber way, pausing each year to remember their loved one perhaps with a visit to the gravesite. Others, such as our family, tends to deal with death with laughter, stories, and celebration. I think the same should be true of Remembrance Day, honour it in the way that reflects you and the freedom you have to be you, thanks to the sacrifice these individuals made.
Part of me wonders what sort of response we would get if directly after these wars we asked these young men would you prefer us have a somber sad day we reflect upon your sacrifice or a day of celebration recognizing the freedom you won for all? Honestly, I think the response would be varied from soldier to soldier because just as we can handle death differently there would be different views on how to honour our soldiers. That's why I think you recognize this day in the manner true to you while being respectful towards those who have a different view than you.
Our family has had a variety of ways over the years we remember. Today we will be pausing at 11:11 and having our own short service right here at Ever After Acres. Then this afternoon we are decorating for Christmas, which is a big deal in our house; music, food, lights, and laughs. We incorporate both a somber aspect to the day and then a celebratory one as it is kind of a reflection of our family and how we deal with death and grief. We hold this view and our family has our own connection with family members and war.
My Great Uncle Reginald Pauley gave his life in the World War II flying a spitfire for the allied forces. Remembrance Day has always had that personal connection for our family, as it is for most families. He had just turned 20 years old and four days before he died wrote his last letter home. He writes, “You know that Spitfires are the best fighters in the world, but I might say that things aren't very safe and I'm dicing with death every time I take one of the Spits out."
My brother last year went with his oldest son to the crash site and they actually brought back a piece of the wreckage. Part was given to the museum in Port Elgin where he was born and a small piece was fashioned into a necklace for my nephew. We never knew my Uncle Reg because he died so young but we knew my grandfather and can't imagine the pain he experienced losing his little brother. The pain of a mother and father losing a son so young.
There is one other thing I wonder about when I think of Remembrance Day and how the largely accepted view of it being a somber/reflective day. What happens the further we get from the events that spawned this holiday? We already have a new generation of young people that will have no memory of a family member that fought in the world wars. I know it is a day to remember all soldiers who have lost their lives in the line of duty but one of the reasons Remembrance Day was so personal to most of us was because so many Canadians fought in the war. In World War II there was 1,159,000 who served out of a country with a population of 11,000,000. That's pretty close to one out of every ten Canadians so it's not a surprise that almost every family has someone connected who fought in World War II.
By comparison today there are under 100,000 men and women serving in the Canadian military. That means even being generous with the numbers it is about 1 out of every 375 Canadians currently serve in the military. Will it not begin to lose traction as Canadians become less attached to loved ones serving our country and our memory fades of the time when 1 in 10 served? I seriously hope I'm wrong and that we never forget.
That's why I think the day should be remembered in the way your family best passes on the memory of our soldiers and all they give for our country. The worst we can do is not decorating for Christmas, it is doing nothing, unless of course doing nothing on this particular day is how you remember. We are a people with differing views, differing feelings, differing ways to honour, differing histories, differing languages, differing races, differing beliefs, differing ideals and differing priorities. We are not a country of people who all think and look alike. In fact, my history tells me we fought a great war against a nation striving for everyone to be the same. Lest We Forget.
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