“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.
From ‘For the Fallen’ a poem by Laurence Binyon
Around the world today, many gathered in respectful silence in churches, and cemeteries, on grassy banks, along memorial walls and around commemorative statues. The trumpeter sounded the last post, throats tightened and eyes pricked with tears.
In 2010 I had the privilege of visiting the Somme battlefields in France and Belgium. Though the sun shone, wind gently rustled through the cemetery trees and the birds chattered and scratched around the graves and among the flowers, there was a distinctly eerie feel to the place. As I stood at each memorial site learning about the battles, war strategies and history, I felt like an interloper. The air was thick with the stories of ghosts, of dreams unrealised and hopes lost.
The Somme is not a place you easily forget.
As we remember the thousands of young men (and women) who made the ultimate sacrifice in that far distant war (and wars still going on today), so that we can enjoy the freedom we have today, I cannot help remembering losses a lot closer to home in the lives of my family and my readers.
My gentle-hearted Dutch granny whose genes I have in ample supply,
My farmer grandpa who was called Nyamazela too,
My other sweet wise-cracking giant of a grandpa who gave us ‘rides’ on his chiropractor chair and whose favourite party trick was to jiggle his bicep around in his arm because it had snapped off from the tendon many years before.
Blessed am I, with grandparents who all loved me, cuddled me and told me I was special.
Uncle Clive, who died after many years of suffering, spoke German, loved his 3 little girls, but didn’t get to see them grow up, get married and have their own babies.
My Uncle Walter, who was just getting his life started again, in love and soon to move to the coast.
Dawny and her amazing Friday night Mac&Cheese with grilled tomato skewers and a healthy dollop of All Gold tomato sauce – I send hugs to her sad Birdie left behind.
Little Campbell, long-eyelashed and rosy-cheeked, who will forever remain just 5 years old.
And my heart goes out to my friend Lee, who lost her dear mother – just this week.
There are so many feelings wrapped up in our memories of those we’ve lost. So many ifs and buts and wishes.
I hazard there are some recollections that should be forgotten, but most I plan to hold onto.
I’m sending you virtual hugs today, my readers, if your heart is feeling sore.
P.s. Just in case you’ve been under a rock for a few days, the Armistice was declared 100 years ago today, on 11 November at 11 minutes past 11 o’clock in the morning.
P.p.s. Some of my photos show the Menin Gate ceremony. This is the Memorial to British and commonwealth soldiers whose lives were lost, but whose graves are unknown. This ceremony has been held EVERY evening at 20h00 in Ypres since the the memorial opened in 1927. EVERY EVENING – except for during the occupation of the Germans in WWII.
P.p.p.s. I still have one living grandmother. She’s brilliant at everything does, is sharp as a pin and turns 90 on 16th November – Happy Birthday Granny!
P.p.p.p.s. Hubby has a warm woolly pullover which belonged to my Dad and every winter when it comes out, I’m glad to get hugs in that familiar warmth – my Dad was a keen hugger!