Remembering a Friend or Loved One

Reuters/REUTERS - A woman places a poppy on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier following the Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa November 11, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

Reuters/REUTERS – A woman places a poppy on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier following the Remembrance Day ceremony at the National War Memorial in Ottawa November 11, 2013. REUTERS/Chris Wattie

It’s the time of year, as Remembrance Day approaches, that many Canadians think back on lost or injured loved ones who fought for Canada in the last great War, or more recently in the war against terrorism in Afghanistan, or in a number of support missions that engaged Canadian troops. What mostly comes up for me is the recollection that my father shared about his service in Canada’s air force during WWII, while stationed in England. He only once spoke of the horrors, saying he had held a friend who was hit by an enemy attack over England and died in his arms, but my father was part of the service and support, not one who flew in a fighter craft. My father, like so many of his generation,  preferred this his daughters never know of the real horrors of war, and that peace would be our lot in life, and the world would never again witness such trauma and destruction as war, especially the war that eliminated 6,000,000 Jews, as well as dealt death to people with disabilities, to Roma, to gays and lesbians and to other minorities that got in the way of Hitler’s vision of an Aryan race dominated world.

That wish, for perfect peace, has never been fulfilled.  Much of the world has experienced various horrors related to wars, but events of the past week have awakened Canadians to what could be, what must never be, a war at home.

We were all aghast at the murder of two Canadian soldiers in two separate terror attacks, shocked by the senseless violence, by the probable association with an ideology that attempts to trump all others, as did Nazism, Communism, Fascism. We are all afraid to speak of it, afraid of being labelled, but that does not improve anything. An ideology is not a person or a people, it is a belief system and in this case, one that is attempting to impose its will on other people, and to eliminate those who disagree. But I write not to debate any religion, belief system, political ideology, but to point out the humanity of individual Canadians and how that binds us.

As the shots rang out in Ottawa, one of the five people that ran towards the Canadian War Memorial to assist the fallen soldier, Corporal Nathan Cirillo, was Barbara Winters, a former Canadian naval reservist who had served as a medical assistant, and now a lawyer in the government, who recounted her story on CBC radio. Not only did Ms Winters and the others perform CPR and other procedures in an attempt to save Corporal Cirillo’s life, but she did a most heroic, kind and caring act. She began telling him how much he was  loved and how proud everyone was of him.

“I kept telling him repeatedly that he was loved, that he was a brave man,” said Winters through tears. “I said look at what you were doing — you were guarding the dead. You were standing at the cenotaph. I said we’re all so proud of you, your parents are so proud of you, I said your family loves you, everybody here that’s working on you loves you.”

This selfless, simple act, was so profound, so deeply felt, so amazing. Her spontaneous response, to speak of love, brought me to tears just listening to the newscast. I heard Barbara Winters, in tears herself, recounting what came to her mind and why she did this. She spoke of two things: sharing such a message of love when she sat by the bedside of one of her beloved parents, even knowing the person was already in a coma, she still sent messages of love, believing she was heard, and secondly, she spoke of her conviction that everyone is loved, by someone or even many people. Love, is a message that one should take unto one’s death. She did not want our innocent Canadian soldier to feel alone, to feel only his pain, to die without being reassured of his being loved.
Of course, we have come to know how very much Corporal Cirillo was loved, and of the love he has earned from across the spectrum of Canadians, young and old, coast to coast.

So, now think, have you reminded all the people in your life how much you love them? Are you remembering friends, family, fallen or forgotten allies whom you love or loved? Sometimes, we have to give ourselves the love we might not have received, that we can attribute to someone who maybe did not know how to show it, be it a parent, a child, a spouse. As Barbara Winters said, no one should be without love and no one should die lonely, alienated, feeling unloved.

As we approach Remembrance Day, may we all find peace and love, and think of our Canadian troops who sacrifice all for the security of our country, for peace in the world, and so that we may freely express our love for one another.

About modcpresident
I grew up in Calgary, where I completed a BA at the University of Calgary, then travelled and taught in Kenya and the Canadian Arctic during the heyday of Trudeaumania, hippie travel and social experimentation. I settled in Vancouver to complete a Master of Social Work degree at the University of British Columbia, and stayed another 8 years. After graduating I was a Social Planner and eventually became the Executive Director of the Social Planning and Research Council of BC. Ontario March of Dimes recruited me in 1981, the International Year of Disabled Persons and the 30th anniversary of the agency. It has grown from a budget of $5m in '81 to $100m in 2010. Services have expanded drafmatically. We incorporated a non profit housing corporation in 1992 and a national charity in 2001, and since 2006 the latter has operated as March of Dimes Canada. We own and operate several properties that provide accommodation and independent living services to 77 people in 4 municipalities and will add another property this year. Two other exciting non profit entities have been incorporated in my 30 years (yes, it has been 30 years!) and we expect to hold our first fundraiser in the US this year and to initiate our first service south of the border also. My role as President and CEO continues to be that of creating a vision, fulfilling the mission and developing strategic plans to meet an increasing demand for services from people with disabilities and their caregivers. This is achieved through direct service, advocacy and peer programs. On a personal note, I live with my 17 year old daughter and two cats, and enjoy their company a lot. My two adult sons are doing interesting exploration in their own lives and I am intrigued with how they are progressing. In my spare time, I have various volunteer roles on several non profit boards and committees, and enjoy creating programs for building awareness of diversity and disability. I think it has become true for me that youth is, while not "wasted on the young," something that I appreciate more with age. Adventures are physically more challenging for me now, so they have to occur in new dimensions.

4 Responses to Remembering a Friend or Loved One

  1. Barb Shannon says:

    My family and I went to the war memorial on Sunday to pay respect and show support for our military. The scene was one of united reverence with hundreds of other Canadians doing the same thing. As we stood I was suddenly aware of the courage being quietly shown by the two honour guards. They had heard and seen the same news reports of the life lost last week but chose to put on their uniforms, carry their ceremonial arms and take their post at the tomb of the unnamed soldier. We hope that they receive thanks for their service to Canada and the bravery demonstrated through “standing on guard for thee”.

  2. quiall says:

    A beautiful post and a gentle reminder.

  3. Catherine Bell says:

    Hi Andria:

    Thank you so much for this post as we head into ‘remembrance month.’ It was very touching. I missed the media interview of Barbara Winters.

    Catherine

  4. Tricia Gueulette says:

    Thank you very much for sharing this is a beautiful post. I was also very moved by Barbara Winters’ interview and was so grateful for her message.

    We laid a wreath at the Cenotaph in Victoria on behalf of all of CanVet the day after the shooting in Ottawa. Our team across the country feels truly honoured to serve those who have served our country and at times like this, we feel that honour even more.

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