Last year on November 17, my family and I laid my grandpa “Don” to rest at Ft. Snelling Cemetery in Minneapolis, Minnesota – the same city he came into the world in back in 1921.
I had never been to a national graveyard before and to say it was overwhelming would be an understatement.
The graves seemed to be never-ending, and blanket of snow that welcomed us on arrival gave the illusion that maybe they never did.
I had lost my other grandpa “Gerry”, years before in June of 2006. Which means as of last year, I’m officially grandfather-less. I am at peace with that.
I am at peace because both of my grandfathers lived long, relatively healthy lives that were full of love and laughter. I only hope all of our obituaries can read “Beloved spouse of 58 years”, and, “Survived by five children, nine grandchildren and seven-great-grandchildren”.
One of the things my grandfathers had in common were that they were both WWII veterans. My Grandpa Don was a Navy rescue pilot who was awarded two Distinguished Flying Crosses for his bravery, and my Grandpa Gerry was an active member of the Royal Canadian Air Force who took his secrets to the grave, meaning he probably did some very important things for us.
On this Remembrance / Veteran’s Day, it hit me that I no longer have a living link to that part of the past. Soon enough, we will all lose that living link to WWII, because the Department of Veterans in the United States estimates that there are only 847,419 living American WWII veterans, with 492 dying each day.
Therefore, I’m writing on this Remembrance/ Veteran’s Day to remind everyone, including myself, that the past matters and the least we can do is spend a moment today to reflect on that. Whether it be a moment of silence, wearing the poppy, or attending a ceremony, take a moment to reflect on the sacrifices that allowed us to be here and enjoy our lives in peace.
The further we get from WWII, the less people remember what a horrible, violent, and uncertain part of history it was. It needs to be remembered that so we make sure it never happens again.
I also recognize that other wars of great magnitude have been fought since WWI&II. So today, we think of all individuals, in all of the battles, who have risked their lives in the fight for peace and freedom.
But for me, I write this as a cathartic release to thank my grandfathers and recognize their remarkable lives and stories because sadly, I didn’t do enough of that when they were around.
If you are in Vancouver today, here is a list of Remembrance Day ceremonies taking place throughout the city. I’ll be there.