~ They Shall Not Grow Old ~ An Ode to Remembrance Day ~ November 11, 2012


Remembrance… (Photo credit: Rick Leche)

“They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old; Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn. At the going down of the sun and in the morning ~ We will remember them.”

~ Laurence Binyon, For the Fallen

There is no romance in Remembrance Day, though the words of Binyon may make it seem so. The fact that “They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old” sounds dreamy, almost idealistic, but it is not. Romance is a term often used only for the love between two people, but its definition in part is “the free expression of feelings”. Again, I say, there is no romance in not growing old. “Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn” though is comforting in a way. We still need to be comforted at the losses that were incurred; and we still need to remember.

Portrait of Laurence Binyon by William Strang

Portrait of Laurence Binyon by William Strang (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

We need to find a way in which to honour those who lost their lives so that we can live the life we live in freedom. And though their deaths were in battle, they were not in vain, and I think Binyon’s poem reflects that. Most of those who died were young. To think that they will not be condemned to live life as those of us who age, and go through the perils and challenges that come with aging—I guess puts the loss on a less vulnerable level.

But we should never become comfortable in the loss of young lives – whether the loss is for country and freedom, or as in so many of the battles of today—protection of people and the preservation of life as we know it. It is not easy to understand war and conflict; it is not easy to send our best to protect us, knowing they are in harm’s way; it is not easy to reflect on the losses of the past, or contemplate the challenges of the future.

Remembrance Day is a day for pause and reflection and to remember. But our remembering should be active—it is not just to recall or keep something in mind—it is to keep from forgetting and to commemorate. And we are not just to remember those who gave their lives; we are to remember those who fought, and those who continue to fight in all and every capacity on our behalf.

For years I had no real reference point for Remembrance Day—I was not personally affected by it—or so I thought. I had lost no loved ones, and I did not “feel” the significance of the day. But in school we were reminded, and at church we were reminded, and in the media we were reminded. And we need to continue to be reminded to remember. We need to carry on the tradition “lest we forget”.

Perhaps I was wrong, perhaps there is romance in Remembrance Day, because if we use the definition of “free expression of feeling” for romance, then we should freely express our sympathy, freely mourn the losses, and freely remember those who made and make it possible to walk in freedom.

I will happily and sombrely pause at the 11th hour on the 11th day of the 11th month and remember. But it will be a remembrance that has a past, present, and future. One that has life at its core, not death; a remembrance of those who did not get to grow old and weary; and a remembrance of those who saw battle and did come home to grow old.

We shall remember them well; and we shall forge forward and support those who are still involved in protecting us and others. Remembrance is not passive; it is evocative of what we must not forget. I leave you with “A Wish” for the future, part of a poem by Maxine Kendall:

Maybe it is pointless
To wish for lasting peace
For all mankind to lay down arms


peace (Photo credit: Aunt Owwee)

For all fighting to cease

Hope lies in a child’s heart
Not yet turned to stone
A mind free of prejudice
A child not alone

If all children of the world
Held each other’s hand
They could do what we could not
Make a Brotherhood of Man.

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49 CommentsLeave a comment

  1. What a beautifully written tribute.

  2. lovely thoughtful post

    • thank you – it was heartfelt–sometimes you do open a vein and bleed all over the page

      • well said. very well said

      • thank you so much

  3. Great write in honor of Remembrance Day & tied up nicely with a wonderful poem.

    • thank you Rosy — it was not easy to write–seems to hit a vulnerable chord

  4. This made me cry.

  5. It was a beautiful explanation of why we must ‘never forget’ and teach our young to know how and why we have the freedoms we have..I didn’t have anyone who died in any of the wars but my oldest brother served in the RCAF during WW2 and we were very thankful that he returned home safely…Diane

    • a hero–you should be so proud and so happy he came back to “grow old”

  6. A beautiful post. written wtih dignity, love, and compassion for others that have died so that we shall live. It is true, I believe that war will always be. I have often wondered how the desire to fight became so impregnated in the mind and heart of humans. Someone once wrote “there will always be war and rumors of war.” However, now there are more internal wars in various countries than ever before and that is distressing.

    • I wonder why it seems to be so much a part of our society–I will never understand it–I understand the reason why sometimes, but that does not make it any better

  7. Seems like you are of a country of English speaking as in US it was called Armistice Day then after WW 2 changed to Memorial Day to commemorate all wars.

  8. lovely post… ‘Old Soldier Never die..they just fade away…;)

  9. Living in Ottawa I have been lucky to attend the services on Parliament hill. It is always a moving tribute to the men and women who died for our freedom. Thanks for a beautiful post Lou.

  10. Wonderful post in honor of all those who came before us and striven, sacrificed so we could be here today..

  11. Hi Louann, Rememberance Day…it’s a wonderful sentiment. “If all “If all children of the worldHeld each other’s hand,
    They could do what we could not;
    Make a Brotherhood of Man.” Thanks for posting 🙂

  12. Such a soulful tribute…beautiful.

  13. would that we should all remember
    would that we ALL may someday recoil from war altogether such that the stories recall the days of long ago when we needed to remember.
    Thank you LouAnn for reminding us to remember….

    • that would be a blessing — to only have to remember the past, and that it not be in the present or the future

  14. As a Navy Vet, thanks very much. That is one of best pieces ever.

    • I am honoured that you like it — thank you on so many levels. It is easy to write about, hard to have served.

  15. Beautiful!

  16. Lovely post honey 🙂

    My great uncle was killed in WW1 😦


  17. This is lovely…11/11/11….I will remember. Thank you

    • And thank you – and talk about coincidences, I just visited your blog –which I truly enjoy

      • The feeling is mutual…glad to have power back after Hurricane Sandy so I can catch up on my smiles! Thank you! 🙂

      • It was too long for you–I bet you really appreciate it now that you have it back though. I hate being without electricity

      • Me too…it’s amazing how much we take for granted. Of course, we now have a nor’easter on its way today so we’ll see what happens now. Fingers crossed.

      • I am crossing mine for you too – you don’t need anymore challenges

  18. A very special day, which we need to remember ~ good write Louanne

  19. Thank you for this Lou.
    I needed to be reminded. You put it so well.

  20. […] ~ They Shall Not Grow Old ~ An Ode to Remembrance Day ~ November 11, 2012 […]

  21. So well thought about, and considered, and moving.

  22. I read through layers of emotions, deep seeded thoughts
    Beautiful tribute….
    I think when “They shall not grow olde” is said to me it means memories will never grow olde….memories don’t seem age just feel more at peace…
    Thank you Lou..this is really Beautiful…
    Take Care…

    • thank you — I agree memories do not grow old and eventually we will reach peace with them

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