There has never been a Remembrance Day in my life that has had a greater impact on me than the one about to come on Monday.
This year, and this past few weeks, I have been enriched by connections to veterans that have changed the way I see the world, leaving me with a sense of hope for the future.
And if these people can still have faith in humanity, we all can.
My friend Frank will blush when he reads this, but he has been my date several times this year for a cup of coffee and a chat. A veteran of the Second World War, Frank is someone I met while covering a Remembrance Day event years ago. As kindred spirits, that chance encounter has blossomed into a true friendship.
Frank is quiet man, but when he tells a story, it’s worth listening to. A mechanic in WWII, he never fired a shot, but he tells a moving story about the horror he witnessed that made him choose fixing tanks over driving them. He prefers to reflect on the camaraderie of war, and how proud he is to have served.
Despite being a bachelor, Frank enjoys my column and laughs along with me. I am well aware that as a woman, I wouldn’t write this column if it weren’t for veterans like Frank who took part in a war to protect my human rights, including an education and freedom of speech.
My life is better because of our coffee chats, but it’s much deeper than that and we both know it. I’m honoured to be his friend.
Sitting across from Sytske Drijber, who you will read about in the pages to follow (in the Advertiser’s Inside Wellington Remembrance Day feature), was an honour, too.
She didn’t think her stories of wartime interesting, but I hung on every word. From tales of heroism to romance, I will never look at women in war the same way again.
When I need an example of grace under pressure or the tenacity to live life with purpose, I’ll remember the day I sat in Sytske’s living room. I left there reminded that love transcends all, that forgiveness is freedom and that the past belongs behind us because there is so much ahead of us. I was honoured to listen.
I had the pleasure to hear Lloyd Swick (you’ll read about him too) make a presentation to a group of local school children that has left me with a life lesson I won’t forget, and I hope they don’t either.
Lloyd reminded the students that the words of the Canadian national anthem ask us to “stand on guard for thee.” He told the children that means to speak out against anyone being a bully, to guard against being so selfish that you don’t make time to volunteer to help others, to protect against falling in with bad company, but also to remember that they are lucky to be Canadians, so they should defend against anything that does harm or a disservice to their country. Be good citizens. Make a difference. Amen. It was an honour to hear his words.
Sadly, my family recently lost Sergeant James Taylor, a retired member of the Canadian Armed Forces. On Nov. 11, I will remember how he loved his work, but more this country; how his service is recognized at CFB Kingston; and how his men respected him as a leader.
I was honoured to love him.
Writing has been my passion since I learned how to hold a pencil (which I still cannot do properly). Despite my father’s insistence that I would starve to death in this career, I remain well fed and eager to write more. They say you should do what you love: I love to write.