Remembrance Day was always something I never really got as a kid...what I did get was 'School was cancelled...YAY!!'
I'd see the parades and ceremonies at City Hall on TV... we would do ceremonies at school...two minutes silences at 11:00 on the 11 day... 11 month... that's when WW1 ended...the time Armistice was signed in 1918..learned that in social studies right?
We do it to remember those who have fought and fallen... well...My ancestors had a different history... they never fought... they ran from the Japanese..they ran from Communists...they starved on their own farms... Chinese immigrants celebrate "Ching Ming".. we get pastries and BBQ pork and have a picnic at the graveyard... but on Remembrance Day I get the day off!!!
May 2010, I was particularly intrigued hearing that the Netherlands have more Canadian flags waving in one town than all of Canada... I figured just coming off the 2010 Winter Olympics and the Dutch must be quite the hockey fans or something... Indeed they are.. but for other reasons.
Watching news clip after news clip, I saw 100's of thousands of Dutch people cheering, crying, mobbing and honouring Canadian Veterans... mothers of small children, teenagers, people in their 20's who never knew WW2 first hand..they were all running up to these slobbery old guys just to get a kiss or a touch. They interviewed these people... they said they wanted their children to know they touched a person who liberated their country 65 years ago.
Flags and banners waved.. " Thank You Canada- we will never forget"; "Thank You for our Liberation Canada"... Memorial burial places in the Netherlands were gathered by literally 100's of 1000's placing flowers and candles on Canadian soldiers' graves and stones... "they never let a whipper snipper touch the headstones..they hand cut the grass with scissors" said an old Canadian Vet in an interview....
It dawned on me then.."They do remember.." The Dutch deliberately keep in sharp focus what it meant to be hunted, starved, and killed during the war. They forget neither those crushed under Nazi occupation at home, nor those who went off to their deaths in battle. The memory is kept alive by public policy and personal conviction. These people realize what it meant to lose their freedom... and remember what it took to get it back...
"To show their appreciation to the pilots who dropped food from the air, many Dutch people painted, "Thank you, Canadians!" on their rooftops. In honour of their gift of freedom Dutch people have donated 10,000 tulip bulbs to Canada for the National Capital Region, annually since the war's end. For 1995, the Netherlands donated an additional 5,000 bulbs for Parliament Hill, 1,000 for each provincial and territorial capital and 1,000 for Ste. Anne's hospital in Saint-Anne-de-Bellevue, Que. (the only remaining federal hospital in Canada, administered by Veterans Affairs Canada) "
It's tempting to feel the Canadian pride...but then I realized also ...the Dutch challenged my thoughtlessness that day. I am embarrassed about my delinquency as an adult... what the Dutch said that day is true.."It is our duty to remember and to teach future generations what it means to be free..."
How true... I never really got it... but it's not too late to remember..So today, I will reflect on the real price paid for my lifetime of peace, freedom, and opportunity.
Today I set aside my x-rated prose about Wall Street's inner workings; I will hold back my cynicism about politics and the current global economic outlook; and instead nurture memory and appreciation. I will acknowledge the price being extracted today from Canadians serving in far off conflicts.
Today I pray for those who gave everything, and for those being now asked for their all...
Lest we forget....