Lest we forget – that is the phrase that reminds us of the horrors of war and those who gave their lives in conflicts around the world. We all know that November 11 is set aside to take time to remember those who have perished in war on our behalf.
A few days ago my friends in the Bradley family from Six Nations near Hamilton, Ontario, participated in an early remembrance ceremony, held by the Six Nations Veterans Association in Ohsweken, for the local First Nation people who lost their lives in war. The Bradley patriarch, John Bradley Sr., who passed away this year, was a decorated veteran of the Second World War. He never failed to attend Remembrance Day ceremonies. His wife Norma and daughters Laurie and Luanne laid wreaths in his memory and for those who have fallen in war. His son John Jr. read the honour roll call and act of remembrance.
Chief Ava Hill was on hand to voice her words of support, healing and remembrance to all those in attendance. Mississaugas of the New Credit First Nation Council Chief Bryan LaForme, Member of Provincial Parliament Dave Levac, Brant County Mayor Ron Eddy and other dignitaries also paid homage to the day. There was a parade, pipe band and military ceremonials. Four Delhi Harvard aircraft lifted the hearts of everyone in a nostalgic fly past.
In a Bradley family gathering later at Laurie and Fred Lambert’s home in Brantford everyone gathered to note the day and to bid bon voyage to several family members heading out on a world tour. I could not help notice what a huge gap there was amongst us since John Sr. was not on hand, lifting spirits and comforting his family with humour and kindness. It was just not the same.
However, as life in its ebbs and flows takes and gives, we had a bright ray of sunshine on this day. A new baby in the family, Everett Martin, one-year-old son of Chris and Tess was there in all his smiling glory with his scramble from adult to adult for hugs, kisses and laughter. He did his late great-grandpa John Sr. proud with his healing gift in his own way to remind us of the hope that new life provides.
As I watched little Everett roll around on the back lawn covered in red, yellow and orange leaves I thought of how fortunate he was to be born in this time and place with family all around. As he lay on his back staring up at the pale blue sky framed by the faces of loved ones in play and the colour of fall in the trees over head I wondered at what kind of future we would provide him in our world.
In remembrance, I thought of my great-grandfather John Chokomolin, who participated in the First World War. He left his family on the shores of Attawapiskat only to die in England of the Spanish flu. I thought of all those other young men of Attawapiskat, all the other First Nations and all the non-Native men and women who had gone to war. Many did not return. I thought of all those civilian casualties, children, mothers, fathers, grandmothers and grandfathers who perished in wars gone by.
It dawned on me that our Remembrance Day should be very far reaching. It should also be dedicated to reminding us that we want a better world for little Everett and all the little boys and girls of future generations that deserve a life well lived, long and prosperous. The rich and powerful rarely if ever send their boys and girls off to war, but in fact they are responsible for much of the conflict that results in war, which almost always results from a confrontation over land, resources and riches.
I am hopeful that we as civilized people have come to the point in our development that we can find new ways to work together in a world community where wars are considered a barbaric thing of the past. That means that we really have to dig deep and be realistic and honest in our Remembrance Day ceremonies. Most of us are not buying the mantra of war anymore. We need to stand up and be counted as those with hope for a new world with better ways to solve conflicts for Everett’s sake. Just as those who returned from war-torn Europe a century ago vowed.
Lest We Forget.