For me, the early days in November are some of the year’s most sorrowful. The first days of autumn have taken their course, felling the brown leaves from their trees, covering the green life of the grass and revealing death in the stark branches. The cold of the coming winter is in the air, but its cleansing snow has not yet arrived.
It is in these gloomy days that Remembrance Day comes upon us, filling our heads with grainy images of fallen soldiers and scarred battlegrounds. As if coming out of hiding, aging heroes reveal their presence, hoping to infuse the sacrifice of others in our memories for just one more year. But every year their numbers dwindle, and so every year our memories lessen.
In the days leading up to Remembrance Day I do what I can to remember. I remember the story my father would tell about how the door of his family’s farmhouse was once blown open by the explosion of a fallen V-1 flying bomb. (If a V-1 passed over your head still buzzing its horrid noise then you were safe. If one ever stopped making that noise, it meant that it was falling.) I try to picture my grandfather in his RAF uniform, thankful that he was able to return safely home to Britain.
I remember the various war-themed books I have read and movies I have seen, their images melting together to coalesce into a series of horrific montages of death and destruction. One can never get a true feeling for war by watching its movies. The content is too sterile, too polished for a wider audience, too detached from the experience. I feel that books give a more honest picture, a more detailed first-person account which movies can never replicate.
I remember those who have died and those who are still serving in recent conflicts, like that in Afghanistan, to remind me that war is not a long-forgotten thing. Every year brings more veterans, and more names to remember.
Sadly, this year the hour of remembrance passed by without my acknowledgement. However, Remembrance Day to me is always more than the mere two minutes of silence at the eleventh hour. It is two minutes of contemplation, of gratitude, and of sorrow repeated many times over.