If war has taught us anything positive, it is the infinite resiliency of the human spirit.
In the darkest times, in horrific conditions, existing under a constant veil of fear and incomprehensible loss of life, the human spirit flourishes despite all odds. Stronger. Determined. Grounded in a faith some cannot even name, a faith others would never question. I am in awe of the courage it takes to survive that darkness.
This Saturday, when I gather with my community at our local cenotaph, I will hold on to that thought as I pay respects to the men and women who served and continue to serve my country.
On Remembrance Day we focus on the battles, acts of heroism and the statistics of loss, but somewhere in all the tragedy of war there is a profound thread of love. Human nature, for all its faults, is rooted in love and that is what keeps us moving forward. It’s the brotherhood formed in the trenches and the sisterhood forged in service, like munitions factories and hospitals, battlegrounds of their own. It’s the way communities rallied back home, gathering to read the names of the fallen, neighbours helping neighbours operate their farms, the women who went to work, not only to support the war effort, but also to raise their families. Those are the love stories I want to hear.
What I wouldn’t give to go back in time and talk to my Nana about what it was like to be a young woman during the First World War in England. I would serve her a gin and tonic (one of the many preferences we share) to help take the edge off my inquisitive nature. Then I would ask her a million questions. I’d want to know everything. Crazy things, like what did war sound like? What did the air smell like? I’d want to know if she hated the sounds of alarms and sirens as much as I do.
As hard as it would be, I would ask Nana how she was able to cope with the reality that so many friends and family members were not going to return home – classmates, brothers, fathers, just gone. But oh hey, get up and make sure you look pretty and that the washing is done, dinner is set. Carry on, stiff upper lip and all that nonsensical verbiage. I cannot even make dinner when I’m sad. How did my Nana get up every day and survive the uncertainty? Did she cry often? Was she even allowed to? There would need to be more gin.
And I would beg my Nana to dish about the boy, because we both know there was a boy. There is always a boy. Romance in wartime. I’d need details. I would want to know about the dances and how music gave them an escape as it often does me. She loved her wartime classics. I’d want to know about her friendships. I would ask her about her fears, but also her dreams. Can you even dream when your world is being ripped apart? I’d need to know how. And how, after surviving all that, did she even want to bring children into this world? Then, to endure it all a second time, sending her spouse and her eldest son off to war. My generation will never comprehend it.
It would be the interview of a lifetime, a lesson in resilience from a woman who lived it. We are losing those voices in time, but we must keep their stories alive. What I wouldn’t give. Lest we Forget.
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.