Undoubtedly, you’ve seen them. The men and the women of the Royal Canadian Legion Branches have been doing their duty, standing at local businesses with their trays of poppies, collecting donations. I see them every year. I donate several times every year and I am proud to don my poppy to show my support.
But Friday morning, November 6th, 2015, will stand out in my memory as the day I was truly humbled and I knew precisely what I would be thinking during my moment of silence on Remembrance Day.
My friend Karen was enveloped by her navy blazer, her hair neatly braided, and a bright red poppy radiated from the lapel on her jacket. But that bright poppy was no match for her vibrant smile as she stood in the rain with her tray of poppies strung proudly around her neck. When I asked her why she was standing in the rain as opposed to being under the shelter of the covered entrance to the store, she paused briefly, looking into the sky while summoning her response. When she replied, it stopped me in my tracks and hit me right in the heart. She said, “I don’t know. They stood out there for us so the least I can do is stand out here for them.”.
For a few seconds, I was frozen in my spot. I smiled at her and continued into the store to buy my morning paper. I reflected on what she had said to me and, once out of the store, I stopped and chatted with her in the rain some more while I donated the rest of my change.
The thought of what she said still brings a tear to my eye every time I recall her voice saying that brief but overwhelmingly gracious line. That sentence was profound. One simple line put Remembrance Day back into perspective for me.
So easily at 11:00 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, we all take a moment to share silence to remember the fallen, praise the heroes and thank those still serving to protect our basic rights and our freedom. But how much do we think about what those soldiers really endured to fight for us? How deeply will we let our brain delve into those dark places to be able to scratch the surface of the atrocities the fighters of those World Wars, and the many conflicts since, have been made to bear?
As the previous generations fall into the past and subsequently we skip quickly ahead to the next epoch of humanity, how many stories of our fallen ancestors will continue to be shared? My maternal grandfather died of a heart attack long before I was born. He served and I know so little about his sacrifices for our family and our country. His stories of bravery seem to be tucked away with his photographs and his absence.
Hearing Karen’s thoughtful reasoning behind standing in the rain with her tray of poppies made me want to research the time my grandfather spent serving his country. I want to feel that connection on Remembrance Day and I want to share that legacy with my nephews so their generation will understand what it means to show courage in the face of adversity, so they will appreciate what it means to sacrifice yourself for the greater good and how bravery is defined by doing something you believe in, no matter what the outcome.
To all of the men and women who are currently serving, to all of those who have served in the past and to those who are finally enjoying the peace they fought so diligently to preserve, I salute you and I thank you. And at 11:00 am on the 11th day of the 11th month, I shall bow my head and take a moment to truly appreciate everything I have because all of you made it possible for me to have those things.