If you live in Canada, you will know that the poppy is the symbol of Remembrance Day (Veteran’s Day in the States). The poppy is the symbol of remembering the dead who fought to protect us, most particularly in the world wars. The symbol comes from John McRae’s poem In Flanders Fields. As a child, I remember reciting this poem at Remembrance Day in school. At this time of year, my thoughts often return to memories of the past and contemplation of history, both my history and as a general subject. My father served in the Marine Corps in the Second World War, and as he also passed away at this time of year, it often focuses my thoughts.
I’ve written about my father’s experiences a little before, so I won’t go into any detail at present. Of more relevance to the subject at hand is a project in which I have been involved recently. About 20 years before his passing, my eldest sister asked my father to write a little about his life and experiences, a brief account that could be handed down to generations of the family. My father was an excellent storyteller and he complied, and the booklet he produced is one I have returned to many times over the years.
We got to thinking, however, that my father’s account did not tell the whole story of our family. So, we set to gathering my mother’s memories (she’s not the writer my father was) and putting together what we remember to create a book, complete with old pictures of our childhoods, and the lives of our own children, and that project will be coming to fruition in the next couple of weeks. This is strictly a work for the family, for our future so that our children, our children’s children and so on will know something of where they came from.
How can we know where we are going if we don’t know where we came from?
My eldest sisters are the genealogists of the family. I take little credit for what we know of our ancestors, for I’ve never been as interested in it as they have. Our family history has been traced back at least two hundred years on both sides, and in some branches far longer. At the same time, I am grateful for the interest they have taken and work they have done, for it give us an insight into our history. As a famous wordsmith and thinker once said:
Those who don’t know history are doomed to repeat it.
There are innumerable examples of that in the world today. Don’t worry—I’m not going to get all political and I won’t force my views on you all. I won’t rail against governments or organizations, for I agree in some respects with many, not at all with some, and completely with none. I do think that we need to understand as much of our history as we can to look forward to the future with confidence and faith.
I’ve rambled on a bit, so I hope you will all forgive me. I also hope you all have a blessed Remembrance Day, Veteran’s Day, or whatever else you observe at this time of year!