Remembrance Day is a hard day, emotionally, for me.
There’s something about the juxtaposition of peace and devastating war that never sits easily.
Before I get to that, let me tell you of some of the people I think about on Remembrance Day.
We named our son after the two sides of his family that are intertwined in war and bravery.
My son’s name is Theodore Barclay. He was named this not only because these are both family names but because of two family members who both fought during WWII to help liberate Holland.
Theodoor is my great uncle. He and his brother, Hermanus, were part of the Dutch resistance, the underground. They were my Opa’s most immediate older brothers (there were 7 children in the family). Theodoor, 24, and Hermanus, 21, did what they could but, in the end, they were captured by the Nazis and executed August 10, 1944, one month before the Canadians arrived. ONE MONTH.
(You can read more here... if you know Dutch or can put up with a bad Google translation)
My Opa, Jakobus, who was a young teen at the time, never really spoke of them or the war. However, he named his first son, my wonderful uncle, ‘Theodore Herman’, after his two brothers.
While this was happening in Holland, Canadian troops were preparing to enter the country and liberate it from the Germans. My husband’s grandfather, Barclay Carter Craig, was one of those men.
He also didn’t speak much about his time in the war and there is only a short mention of his experience in the family history that he wrote. He went back to Holland for the 60th or 65th anniversary of the liberation and it meant a lot to him.
Barclay is a family name that came from Scotland and has been passed on to the oldest male children for many generations now. We knew that, if we had a son, he would have the middle name Barclay. What better than Theodore Barclay, a name that ties together the two sides of his family; family that is intertwined in history.
Grandpa Barclay lived until he was almost 95 and met 4 of his 5 great grandchildren but not Theodore Barclay.
I look at my privileged life here in Canada, safe and comfortable, and it weighs on me that this life is possible because of men and women who risked their lives and gave their lives in terrible wars. Young people, on both sides, were slaughtered because of greed, and political and territorial aspirations of the elite few. Then there was the ideological and moral fight against that little man and his insane, wicked partners, intent on slaughter and ethnic cleansing in addition to the territory.
My heart breaks because of the wickedness of mankind. My heart grieves over the bravery of people willing to fight, willing to have to kill others, to keep us safe. I wish there was another way.
I think of my brother and sister-in-law who served in Afghanistan. My brother is MP (military police) now but they could both end up overseas serving in a conflict zone.
My heart breaks because there are people in this world who are not safe. There are wars still raging; ethnic cleansings, twisted and sick men cloaking themselves in false ‘divine missions’; fights over territory, exploitation… Power! And the conditions that sparked so many of these conflicts come from other conflicts. What a mess. Why do we treat each other this way?
It’s a lot to take in. It’s too much. But, once a year at least, maybe we need to think about it.
So, as the tears run down my face on November 11, it’s all these things and all the people I think about. I think about them in peace and safety that others bought for me with their lives.