Monday, November 23, 2015

Remembering

On November 11th I went to the Last Post military cemetery in Pointe Claire.

I have written about this place once or twice before. Here time stands still. Twenty thousand servicewomen and servicemen have been laid to rest in the cemetery. My grandfather Georges Terroux, who served in the Canadian Expeditionary Force in World War I, is one of them.

It was a privilege to be here on Remembrance Day. The cemetery was well attended.



An honor guard, band, and choir gathered in the presence of veterans, their loved ones, and local dignitaries, to pay tribute to the soldiers, and their service to Canada.


In my previous posts I wrote about the cemetery and my grandfather's service.

The mood here is always heart-wrenching on Remembrance Day. I rarely have had the opportunity to come here on Remembrance Day. Now that I am at the crossroads, there is time.

Although the weather was sunny and mild, lacking the dismal overcast and bitter cold that is more usual on November 11th, the cold fall air still induced a dripping nose, but more about that later.

I arrived minutes after the 11:00 a.m. moment of silence. I  parked the Vespa in the adjoining Jewish cemetery and walked self-consciously and respectfully to my grandfather's tomb and brushed away the fallen leaves that obscured his marker.


I know the man partly through my grandmother's loving accounts of his life. My how she loved and respected that man. My mother spoke of her father in a different but equally reverent way. The bond between them was as strong as any father-daughter bond can be. The resulting image I have of my grandfather is that he was a quiet, loving, and courageous man, steeped in adversity, who, in spite of it, lost none of his humanity.

Having observed my own personal moment of silence, I went to stand among the people gathered around the cenotaph.

Young soldiers, most of whom have yet to see battle, honored the veterans buried here, and the countless thousands more buried on the battle fields of Europe and the far east who gave so much and performed so valiantly.


My memory of past ceremonies was of an honour guard firing rifles in a twenty-one gun salute. On this occasion, two cannon shots were fired from a World War II 25 pound howitzer. I can't imagine what it would be like to have a weapon like that trained on me, much less surviving the barrage.


As a mere spectator, I stood my ground just a little better for the second shot. I apologize for my sniffling drippy nose.

There was no inkling on Remembrance Day that the coming two days would put death and war into very sharp focus.

12 comments:

  1. Nice way to remember the fallen....

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Dom.

      It's important to pay homage. We lead privileged lives and it's easy to forget the enormous sacrifices made for our benefit.

      Delete
  2. Your post had me searching if any World War I veterans are still alive anywhere on the earth. As the years accrue it seems the remembering changes -- at least where I am. I remember visiting the huge cemeteries in Germany where Allied soldiers were buried in the early 1960s with my mother -- the rows and rows of white stones reaching to the horizon -- at least that's how I remember it. And there was a solemn feeling in that place. Your description of Remembrance Day feels the same.

    The only other place I've felt that way was on a foggy morning at Gettysburg National Park where my imagination of the horrors that unfolded got away. I hope we never get away from remembering the price paid then, and now.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. I want to visit the cemeteries in France. They are off the usual tourist tracks and require a special effort to visit. I have seen people completely overcome by the sight of so many graves, and so much lost youth.

      I visited some Civil War battlefields in Virginia many, many years ago. At the time I didn't appreciate the horrors of war quite as much as I do now.

      Delete
  3. Excellent Post! If only the young would learn about the past so that they too can remember...

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. It's true Peter. The only children present as I recall were an infant and a toddler in the company of their parents. The local schools should make a point of taking their students to the Field of Honour in Pointe Claire. The rows and rows of graves underscore the importance of celebrating Remembrance Day.

      Delete
  4. I don't always get to a cenotaph on November 11, but when I do I am always struck by the solemnity of the occasion and the respect of those in attendance as they honour, and in some cases remember, those who have died in the service of Canada. None of us (even those of us with military experience) can appreciate what these men and women did, and do, in the heat of battle. Utmost respect for all.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. David, if ever you are in the neighborhood, let me know. That cemetery is little knows, truly remarkable and well worth visiting.

      Delete
  5. David, thank you for helping us remember.

    ReplyDelete
  6. David, this is a fitting and beautiful tribute to your grandfather and all those who hallow the ground in which they lie. I am always humbled and rendered speechless in military cemeteries when the sacrifices are made starkly apparent and truly hit home.

    ReplyDelete
    Replies
    1. Thanks Joe. Speechless, that's really how we pay true respect, isn't it? Eulogies are always in some respects about the speaker and the living. Only silence in memory of the dead is about them.

      Delete

The copyright in all text and photographs, except as noted, belongs to David Masse.