A sacrifice for the lives we live

We're not equipped to tell you an authentic story about the true meaning of sacrifice. 

We don't have the experience, and generationally, we don't even have a true understanding of what it means to make that ultimate sacrifice - even as we live the beautiful lives made possible by it.

Jim does.

His words teach, heal and inspire. A born communicator.   

A true mentor and friend. 

Thanks for sharing, Jim.

 

I am part of the generation that has been the greatest benefactors of the peace won by the sacrifice of those who served during the first and second great wars.

We have escaped the hardships that were part of the lives of the people who lived during the decades those wars were waged.

The current engagement in Afghanistan with its loss of life by brave men and women who serve on our behalf has given
all of us a renewed appreciation and respect for all of those who served and are serving in our Canadian Forces.

Remembrance Day has become for me both
a solemn tribute and closeness to the spirit of souls of those whose lives were cut short, and an affirmation that while we have the gift of life it is our responsibility to live it to the fullest in their memory.

This view of Remembrance Day came through my encounters with death that created empathy for those whose loved ones were lost in acts of war.

This was not always my view.

My recollections of early Remembrance Day observances is vague. I was born and raised in a tiny village east of here. Bright was made up of about 150 people. Of those a handful were veterans.

The Postmaster, Mr. Kerr was a World War One Veteran. He shuffled as he walked. My parents told me it was because he suffered ‘Trench Foot” a malady that was the consequence of standing for days in muddy trenches on the battlefields.

I was born in 1943, near the end of the Second World War. As I became aware of the world around me there were still reminders of the effects of the War. Ration books were a fascination. No longer needed They were tucked away, and brought out from time to time for us to see. We heard accounts of how our grandparents who didn’t need as much sugar as our family of eight shared their ration.

November 11th. I recall was a sacred day. My memories are pretty dim when it comes to how Remembrance Day was marked when I was six or seven years old I only knew adults were very still, the prayers long, and the moment’s silence was the longest, quietest moment of the year.

High School during the mid fifties, a decade after the end of the war saw all of us issued military uniforms and learning drills to march in Remembrance Day Ceremonies.

The significance of wearing that uniform was lost on me then. We were young. Oh so young. Of course it didn’t dawn on me that those on the sidelines watching us parade would see in our faces the same youthfulness they saw in faces of those who only a decade earlier marched off to battle. Some of them not to return.

That was underscored when my son joined the Navel Reserve at age 17, the same age his grandfather, my wifes’s father when he joined the army and was deployed to France.

And that Moment of Silence was still a long one.

That moment of silence became more significant when my professional life in broadcasting unfolded.

Each November we would prepare tribute broadcasts.

In the early days of my radio career meant involvement in live broadcasts of ceremonies either from the local cenotaph, or the nation’s capitol.

Interviews with veterans. Readings of In Flanders Fields
The poem by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918)
Then in 1966 my personal view of life changed when my 21-year-old brother Bob died of an accidental bullet wound to his heart.

Now my interviews with veterans was with a deep appreciation of what it must have meant to have your comrade die as you lived on.

A much greater understanding of the heartbreak families felt when they were told their son would not return.

I began to understand the moment of silence. The moment of connection with the souls of loved ones lost.

Some of my early views of Remembrance Day were that it was about war. The battles recounted, the statistics of numbers lost.

War.

This new paradigm brought me to what Remembrance Day has become for me today. It is about each individual who sacrificed and served. Each individual whose life was lost. And it is about those who survived. It is a tribute to their service.

Remembrance Day is so much more for me today.
It is showing respect to all of those in uniform who have taken an oath to serve.

It is remembering all of those who served
and in the words of the poem

“ shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old”

And in what seems such an irony, As we pay our respect for and remember the dead it enriches and deepens our appreciation for life and the living.

And that moment of silence as our thoughts and prayers mingle with those around us both living and dead becomes a crystallization of appreciation for all of the moments of our life.

Today that moment of silence that seemed so long when I was a child seems not long enough.

That moment of silence that we reverently share with others once a year is a moment we might take more often in our daily lives.

And still it will not be long enough.

Not long enough to give the Thanks deserved by those who fought.

Not long enough to give thanks for the life we live today.

Lest We Forget

-Jim Swan, Rotarian Address 2010