I do not attend Remembrance Day events. Not because I do not believe in honouring those who have fought and sacrificed their lives to ensure I am able to live in a free society. Free to choose where I live and work. Free to express myself creatively. Free to practice my faith. I do not attend those events because I choose to sit with my mother to whom this day has first hand meaning.
My mother, who this past June celebrated 100 years of living, was born in the middle of the First World War. No she does not remember that particular conflict, but she was born to parents who were experiencing the hardships of daily life when your nation is at war. With a devastating loss of life (nine million combatants and seven million civilians died), it was called ‘the war to end all wars.’ Needless to say, this idealistic phrase was to be proven false a mere 21 years later when once again Europe became the theatre for World War II.
My mother was two years old when World War I ended and twenty-three when World War II began. In March of 1942 she married Ernest William Goddard and in August of that same year, her new husband joined the Canadian Army. In the middle of the war, like her mother before her, she gave birth to a daughter, Sharon, in May of 1943 and six months later Ernest was shipped overseas as part of the Royal Canadian Electrical and Mechanical Engineers.
In 1944 on the morning of June 6, Private Ernest Goddard, entered the history books as Canadian, British and American (Allied Forces) soldiers landed on the heavily fortified beaches of Normandy, France. He was wounded but survived and returned home at the end of 1945.
The war was over but its murderous effect was not yet complete. A brain tumour, which had developed as a result of his injuries suffered during the Normandy invasion, took the life of Ernest on the 30th of November 1946, four months after his son, Brian William, was born.
I am ever grateful for the brave men and women who continue to put on the uniform of military service. One day, I will stand with the crowds that gather on Remembrance Day. In rain or shine I will watch wreaths laid, bow my head in reverent silence, pray a prayer of thanks and lay my own poppy on the stone memorials. For now, I am content to sit beside my mother and hear her memories spoken aloud, for she is a living witness of that war which engaged so many nations at once.