Still Remembering

Monday dawned with fresh snow on the ground, crispy clear blue skies above, and one more thing on my bucket list within my sights.  Apart from attending the usual school ceremonies many years ago, I had never gone to a public Remembrance Day ceremony and I woke up that day determined to cross that activity off my list.  Attendance would allow me to check off an experience.  I confess that is the spirit in which I set out to convince Greg to attend a ceremony with me.

It did not take too much convincing, maybe only an hour of hint dropping and another hour of more direct discussion.  All of which works out really well because we get up pretty early, so I had lots of time before eleven o'clock to cajole him into attending with me and work out the logistics.  Keep in mind this was not just a Monday morning scheme; I had read about the upcoming service in the local newspaper the week before and had already been hatching the idea.  I was fully prepared to go alone but having a sidekick is way nicer therefore the effort to persuade Greg to come along.

We, and I admit it was the royal we, decided that attending the nearby small town ceremony would be an adequate experience that would allow me to cross one more thing off the list.  We left home in plenty of time with the understanding that the event was happening at the Legion in town.  When we arrived there were maybe three cars parked outside the Legion, and a quick visit inside revealed we needed to go to the town community center instead.  Off we went, with Greg muttering about my crazy ideas and how we'll probably be the only ones in attendance.  Down the block, round the corner, only to be confronted with hundreds of cars jammed into the parking lot and tens more parked along the roadside by the community center.  We parked in a questionable spot simply because we were now running out of time.

Inside the front doors of the community center we had to navigate through a crowd of people in their dress uniforms waiting for the ceremony to begin.  Once through the doors of the hall, we were shocked to see over six hundred people filling nearly every seat and standing around the perimeter.  We found a piece of uninhabited wall space to lean on looking at each other in disbelief.  We had no idea it would be this way.  Within a couple of minutes a nice lady came over and told us there were two seats together beside her and we were welcome to them.  Small town Alberta at its best.  Thank goodness for the seats because the ceremony was nearly an hour long.

It was an amazing hour and well worth the effort it took to get there.  The town showed up, young and old, in their finest suits and in their jeans and hoodies.  A young dad marched in with his unit, decked out in his dress uniform and once his march was done and he was in his official seat he took his young toddler on his knee. A local pastor prayed and read scripture, and the community singers performed their best.  The master of ceremonies announced the order of those laying wreaths and in one instance the age of the wreath layer.  When you are over ninety and you can get down the aisle under your own steam to lay a wreath in honor of your comrades, it's note worthy.  The room was especially quiet when a woman and boy laid a wreath in honor of their loved one, and I wondered what the story was.  Had they lost their husband and dad to war or was he away on duty with a hope of coming home soon?  The high school band played "O God Our Help in Ages Past", "O Canada" and "God Save the Queen".   It was more than I had bargained for.  As we left I chatted with an acquaintance who had come to the ceremony with a three and five year old in tow because he said they needed to know this was important.

As we drove home, we talked about how that simple small town ceremony changed the way we viewed Remembrance Day.  The day was set to mark the end of a war that at least one of my grandfathers fought in.  It was meant to be a day that marked the end of war and the start of peace, a day that acknowledged the awful price of war in an effort to prevent more tragedy.  Obviously we as the collective humanity have not remembered very well because we keep making some of the same mistakes over and over.  But in our house we will remember more intentionally and thoughtfully from now on.