Je me souviens

Today is Remembrance Day here in Canada (Le jour de souvenir au Québec) and Veteran’s Day back in the U.S. It’s strange. In the U.S., it’s rather common for a perfect stranger to walk up to a man or woman in uniform and thank him/her for serving. However, in my American experience of Veteran’s Day, it was mostly about getting the day off work and businesses offering Veteran’s Day sales. Here in Canada, it’s rare for strangers to approach people in uniform, but this day seems much more solemn, the tears much more close to the surface, the memories much more vivid and full of love and pain and gratitude.

Or perhaps I’m just biased. Before meeting my husband, I had a friend or two who served, but none were terribly close friends, and the military often had no place in my day to day life or thoughts. I did appreciate that others served, so I would not have to, but I just didn’t give service much thought, save for a sad few moments when I would read something terrible in the news. Obviously, marrying a military man, making more friends in the military, and getting to know my husband’s family (my brother-in-law serves, my father-in-law is retired and the husband’s maternal grandfather, who I sadly never got to meet, but who lives on through a grandson that resembles him so closely in the eyes and brows, served as well) has made me much more intimately familiar with and more appreciative of the sacrifices that military members make. Seeing my husband grow quiet, seeing a few tears fall from eyes that rarely cry, I began to understand what it means to remember. Seeing one of his former friend’s sons, pictured by a gravestone, “sharing a coffee” with his fallen father, I began to understand.

Last Remembrance Day, I was alone in our home, as I am today. However, my husband was not coming home after the parade on base. He wasn’t to come home for just over another month, as he was away on course from August to December last year. At 11am on that day, I observed my minute of silence (which basically meant shutting down facebook, as it was nearly always silent in my house). And I was overcome. I thought about how much I missed my husband, but I thrilled with joy that he was safe, and that I would see him again in just a few weeks. And then my heart cried out. I thought of all of the people out there who missed their loved ones just as much as I was missing my husband, but who either didn’t know if they were safe and coming home again, or worse, knew that they would never return home. And the tears fell.

For all who sacrifice, from giving up the normal comforts of daily life, to living in uncertainty, to missing the birth of their children or their first steps or first words, to having relationships shattered by time and distance and stress, to losing dear friends and family, to making the ultimate sacrifice of your life…

For all of you, I remember. And I thank you, with words too small for the occasion, from the bottom of my heart.

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