11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month

November 11, 2012 at 8:15 am (Life) (, , , , , , , , , , )

This year’s Remembrance Day Poster showcases the National War Memorial in Ottawa.

According to Wikipedia, the National War Memorial “is a tall granite cenotaph with bronze sculptures that stands in Confederation Square, Ottawa, and serves as the federal war memorial for Canada. Originally built to commemorate the First World War, in 1982 it was rededicated to include the Second World War and the Korean War. In 2000, the Canadian Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was added to the memorial site and symbolizes the sacrifice made by every Canadian who has died or may yet die for their country.”

Cenotaph is a French word that means empty tomb. It is from the Latin centaphium and also from the Greek Kenos (empty) and taphos (tomb). A Cenotaph. An empty tomb.

A cenotaph is a monument to the dead whose bodies are either lost or buried elsewhere.

Worldwide there are a large number of unmarked graves and huge number of soldiers/sailors whose bodies have no known grave or who were not known (dog tags, and other means of identification were not always adopted and did not come into common use until the middle of the first world war and then not for all soldiers/nationalities).

After the first world war, there were many cenotaphs erected in Canada. So many of our young men died far from home and were buried where they fell. This is the war my mother’s father was conscripted into by the Russians. I don’t know where he fought or who he fought (friends, neighbours, family). For a young man in that time and place, war was a necessary evil – one fought because one had no other choice – fight or die. He was not yet a Canadian.

I tend to romanticize this war. I see it through TV eyes.

By the time the second world war started, my mother’s father was a Canadian. I don’t know how he spent this war but I pretty sure he wasn’t a soldier nor was my father’s father. They survived on the home front, made sacrifices and never talked to us (their grandchildren) about war.

After the war, they gathered up funds and contributed to the building of war memorials. Cenotaphs, fountains and memorial walks commemorating names sprung up country-wide as my grandparents’ generation remembered their fallen dead.

They joined with their communities every November 11th to recite poetry, lay wreaths and remember friends who never came home.

My mother married a soldier. My father was a peace-keeper. He looked fine in his uniform. So young; so handsome. Their three oldest children were born on army bases. My parents were old enough to remember war, to remember sacrifice, to remember.

My father and step-mother have always been active Legion members. My sisters and brothers have marched as cadets in Remembrance Day parades. My step-mother plays the bagpipes. My mother weeps at the sound of the pipes wail. I have never marched. I was not a cadet. I am conflicted about wearing a poppy.

The first war I remember is the Vietnam War. It was not our war. It played out on our television sets. It was their war. It was wrong. The people I admired said so. Is it ever that simple?

M*A*S*H taught me that war was not clear-cut, that it was not black or white, right or wrong. M*A*S*H taught me that war was complicated.

Today is Remembrance Day and on the 11th hour of the 11th day in this 11th month I will pause and remember.

Because I can. Because I must. Because it is complicated.

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1 Comment

  1. Commemorate – Don’t Celebrate | Solitary Spinster said,

    […] On the 11th Hour of the 11th Day of the 11th Month. […]

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