Tomorrow marks a day of Remembrance. In worship services in churches and at cenotaphs we will gather to remember those who have fought for and won the freedoms that we enjoy and all too often take for granted. Those who have fought have done so at a great personal cost, and all have returned from war forever altered in body, mind, or spirit.
On this day I think of those who have given so much for the freedom and the rights of others. Those who worked in underground organizations, those who fought on the front lines, those who endured destruction, devastation and horror all around them. We can never know what this has cost them.
On Remembrance Day I often think of Don. Don was a WW II veteran, who was stationed mainly in Belgium. Whenever he spoke of the war years he told stories about the wonderful landlady at the home in which he was billeted. He spoke of her sneaking into the bedrooms of the soldiers at night and gathering up their boots, taking them and polishing them and returning them in the morning. This act of care and nurture was an oasis of comfort in what must surely have been the most difficult time in Don’s life. We can never underestimate the depth of comfort and care that Don and the other soldiers received in that simple action. We can never underestimate the depth of love and gratitude that accompanied that nightly chore. I have a sense of how much her kindness meant because Don kept making appointments to talk with me about the things that happened in Belgium.
We met a few times, and every time Don started to tell the story of what had happened to him and his fellow soldiers he couldn’t continue. As he broke down in tears he apologized for being so weak. The truth is, this man was not weak, but rather, was strong beyond all knowing. What he suffered and endured was so painful it could not be spoken of, and he carried all that pain deep within his being. Whereas we can never know the extent of Don’s pain, or the pain of all others who served, God does, and God sends care and comfort in human form…. in gracious landladies, in people who lovingly listen, in those who take the time to work with returning veterans to ensure that their rights for ongoing care are never neglected.
This Remembrance Day, my prayers will include thanks for all those who have fought in the past world wars, but they will also include all those who have fought in recent wars and all those who are still engaged in missions in places of conflict. Fighting for the freedom of others is a noble and courageous undertaking and we must never forget that the freedoms we have are due to the selfless service of unknown men and women.
Remember and give thanks for the veterans who have fought and for those who continue to fight. Seek to show them respect and honor. Stand up for veterans to ensure that decent health care and mental health care will be given to them upon their return. Give thanks and pray.
Pray especially for peace. Peace of mind for veterans. Peace and justice and liberty in all areas of the world that are in conflict. Peaceful hearts and peaceful intentions in those who lead countries or factions or movements.
Let us all do our part for peace, and let us all remember.
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.
We will remember them.