By Ian Cotton, retired Creston pastor
Remembrance Day is celebrated each year in recognition of the men and women who have sacrificed, served, and continue to serve our country during times of war and peace.
Wreath-laying ceremonies are usually organized by the local branch of the Legion at 11 am on November 11th with two minutes of silence observed in honour of those who have made it possible for us to live in freedom.
On Nov. 11, 1918, on the “eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month”, the Armistice was signed and that signaled the end of World War I.
I was born in the middle of the Second World War, and my only memory of that war is seeing burned out buildings in Southampton, England, and bomb craters very close to my home. My neighbour served in the trenches in France and other family members also served in various capacities.
Lieutenant-Colonel John McCrae (Nov. 30, 1872 – Jan. 28, 1918) was a Canadian poet, physician, author, artist, and soldier during the First World War, and a surgeon during the Second Battle of Ypres, in Belgium. He is best known for writing the famous war memorial poem, “In Flanders Fields.” He died of pneumonia near the end of the war.
Many years ago we had the privilege of visiting Dr. McCrae’s home in Guelph, Ont., which has been designated as a National Historic Site of Canada.
“In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved, and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.”
This poem opens our eyes to the realities of war; the grief, loss and death. It closes with a call to duty. Those who have lost loved ones to war need to feel that their loss was justified, heir sacrifice for the greater good.
This special time of year has been set aside for us to reflect on the cost of the freedoms we now enjoy and, for which, so great a price was paid then and is still being paid today in places of conflict around the world.
Not only do we remember those who served in the past but also those who are currently serving at home and abroad. Some of those battles have changed in character, such as those caused by extreme weather events or other major emergencies, but these can still involve danger to life.
That call to duty and all that it involves is best summed up in the words of Jesus in John 15:13 “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.”
And Jesus gave His own life in the ultimate sacrifice for each one of us: “Even as the Son of man came not to be ministered unto, but to minister, and to give his life a ransom for many.” Matthew 20:28