“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.
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
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.