“They shall grow not old”: familiar, yet tragic, words.

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Somehow, another year has flown by, and another Remembrance Day is upon us. I nearly lost my poppy again this year. It might just have been a time-between-purchase-and-loss record-breaker, had it not been for Ryan’s sharp eyes. I bought it on my way out of a store, wore it while driving home and discovered it missing upon entering our house. Ryan rescued it from our driveway, and I applied the crafty little eraser-chunk fix (as discussed in this post from last November). It’s still rolling with me. For now.

McCrae’s “In Flanders Fields” has always been a poignant read for me (and, of course, millions of other people). “We are the dead.” So simple, so bleak. Our war-dead “loved, and were loved”, and now they are gone. A field of people has been replaced by a field of crosses. And that stirring, haunting call at the end! “To you, from failing hands, we throw the torch …. If ye break faith …. we shall not sleep ….” As the years roll by, though, I find myself thinking more of Binyon’s “For The Fallen”. This poem, though also beautiful, didn’t really resonate with me. Possibly because I felt so very far from growing old myself – to me, the young men and women who lost their life had already lived a fair slice of it. Now that I’m 35, I know that couldn’t be further from the truth.

Looking at pictures of the brave men and women going off to war, I’m struck by how young so many of them were – far too young to die. Some of them never even finished school before shipping out. Some of them had never been more than a few miles from home until they followed the bugle call across the ocean. Some of them had never been in love. Some of them were lucky enough to have fallen in love, maybe even to have married their sweetheart – but they would never experience the ripening of that love into the unbreakable, bone-deep bond that a lifetime together forges. Some of them had children, but many did not – they would never see their own eyes looking back at them from a brand-new face, would never know what it feels like to have a piece of their heart living on the outside of their body. The ones who had been granted the profound blessing of becoming parents would not be able to watch their babies grow up. They may have gotten along well with their own parents, but they would never relate to them the way you do when you’re standing in their shoes. They likely never had a chance to know themselves, either, because that takes years of experience and reflection – they just didn’t have time.

What an awful lot to give up for the security and peace of people who would never have a chance to say thank you.

“We will remember them” – because that is all we have to give in return.


3 thoughts on ““They shall grow not old”: familiar, yet tragic, words.

  1. Pingback: You can’t buy what I want for Christmas. | BethBlog

  2. Pingback: The freedom soldiers won for me includes the right to decorate my home and celebrate holidays any way, any time. | BethBlog

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