I confess I had serious thoughts of missing the Remembrance Day service at Vedder Crossing Friday morning. The rain was falling with a malevolence that made my warm cup of coffee and comfortable couch all the more inviting.
But as the rain pelted down I thought of a story my grandfather had told me.
He had landed at Normandy sometime after D-Day and was making his way up past Caen in France. At some point his unit dug in for the night and my grandfather settled into his slit trench to get some sleep. Sometime during the night the clouds opened up and it started to rain. When my grandfather awoke he was half submerged in icy cold water. Floating all around him were the blue airmail letters they gave soldiers to write home. He laughed as he described his confusion – cold and wet, in an icy blue bath.
My grandfather didn’t talk much about the war, only to say that he would not want to go through it again. So I never learned more about the shrapnel still in his hand, or the Nazi SS helmet he brought home. He died while I was still too young to press for more answers.
But every Remembrance Day I think of him, and the hardships he and millions more like him endured to end a cruel and vicious regime. He may have laughed about a wet foxhole, but I know there were more than storm clouds darkening his memories of the conflict.
The rain fell hard Friday morning. And if my grandfather was watching, he likely would have thought us all crazy.
But I’m glad I joined the hundreds of men, women and children who turned out Friday morning to honour those who have given – and continue to give – so much.
We were all cold, and we were wet. But the warmth of our homes was only a short drive away, not across an ocean in a place that many of us might never see again.