Just a thought… In the End, we will remember not the words of our enemies, but the silence of our friends. [Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.]
And we come to the end of another week filled with more news – more sadness – than many of us can take. Another mass shooting in the US. A looming constitutional crisis, also south of the border. The heavy grey of November. I’m sure you’ll be looking forward to taking a breather, if the world will allow.
On a much lighter note, we have one last full day together here in Ottawa with the most accommodating couple – and their son – who’ve made Rob and me feel welcome, despite the unwieldy length of our visit, brought about by Deb Cooper’s funeral last week.
This lovely stop in Ottawa was already planned, but last week’s sad occasion added an extra few days; we suggested that they think of the visit as ten days but with three off in the middle, and they’ve graciously done just that. We even squeezed in a very early Christmas, as it’s all our calendars would allow this year. (And yes, they now have a digital thermometer to replace the one we melted while making that early turkey dinner.)
I’ve never had a problem with people who choose to start getting excited about December 25th before November 11th. I’m of the mind that our hearts and spirits are big enough that we can accommodate many emotions and pay attention to more than one significant event at a time.
Yes, I’m sure someone’s nose was out of joint when the Bay windows were unveiled last weekend, just as they would be if a Santa Claus parade was held tomorrow in some small town instead of waiting until after November 11th, as seems to happen annually. But this year, I was incensed about something else I saw – or didn’t see – and I have to share it with you.
Remembrance Day this Sunday carries with it even more significance than usual this year as it marks the centenary of the first armistice after the Great War, on November 11, 1918. Having visited Vimy Ridge and the memorial there in 2016, we were touched deeply by the significance and magnitude of the sacrifices made by young men and women of so many countries, but especially of our own.
The row upon row of white tombstones marked with names, years and maple leaves is heartbreaking. And taking time to remember the children, parents, brothers and sisters lost during the wars in which a young Canada was called upon to help preserve or restore peace is something every one of us should do willingly and with more than just a passing knowledge of what it is we are commemorating.
But here’s what happened last Sunday evening. We’d checked into our downtown hotel room and took a walk through the Eaton Centre. We entered at Nordstrom at the north end and, as we passed individuals and groups, security guards and employees in that giant department store and then as we spilled out into the mall itself, we saw not one poppy. Honestly, not one.
Finally, we crossed the path of a woman in her thirties, pushing a stroller. She had on two poppies. When we stared at her slack-jawed (yes, I’d gotten pretty worked up by now), she took out her ear buds as if to listen to what we had to say. I told her, “You’re the first person we’ve seen in this mall – from the entrance of Nordstrom to here – to be wearing a poppy!”
She seemed surprised at our rather random outburst and said, “Oh, I always wear two in case I lose one!”
We thanked her, said, “Good for you,” and were on our way.
For the rest of our pass through one of Canada’s largest and most famous shopping landmarks, we saw no more poppies than we could count on one hand. Again, not on security guards. Not on store employees. Not even on men’s jackets on window mannequins. I mean, what the actual hell?
I don’t want to be that person: the one who gets all mad at a store for playing Christmas music or like the angry dude who sang “A Pittance in Time” about the people in the store who didn’t stop down during the 11 am moment of silence on Remembrance Day. I’m all about people relishing the freedom that the allied soldiers fought and died for, so that Canadians had the choice to wear a poppy or to not wear a poppy.
For all I know, some of these folks had their poppies under their jackets or just had no idea what the whole thing is about. Maybe some are new to Canada or visitors to this country (Americans don’t wear poppies, after all). There are a lot of possible reasons why it took us one-third of the mall on that blustery Sunday evening to spot even one person wearing a poppy.
Something is getting severely lost in the messaging. Whether it’s parents’ fault or that of schools, or if it’s something being dropped in the government’s duty to inform its citizens about an important day in our nation’s calendar, there is a serious disconnect when it comes to why we wear poppies. I know why I do: because I’m so fervently grateful to live in this country and to enjoy the freedoms and rights that we so take for granted and that came at such a ghastly high price.
Put up your Christmas tree – your Festivus pole – do what you want. But for heaven’s sake please keep spreading the word about the significance of the poppy and our veterans and active service people. Remind others of the sacrifices that have been made, not just by individuals, but their families as well. And may we never, ever forget.
I’ll be back with you Monday.