I Remember…

As a kid I grew up listen to stories on both sides of my family about the war. It was always The War. Of course my family meant WWII. It was real to my family, not just some newsreel or stories that had been handed down. Grandfathers, Fathers, Uncles, Brothers, Cousins and Friends all had first hand knowledge of The War. In my family I think my Beloved Great Grandmother known to all as little Gram suffered more than most. Her husband had survived the Great War, but then she was asked to give up her sons for the Second World War. They all came back, except one.

Warrant Office Class I Gerard McEachern, Royal Canadian Airforce, killed in action over the North Sea, 19 May 1943.

He had finished his tour of duty but took one last flight for a buddy who was too sick to go. I heard stories of how my Gram knew it happened before she received the telegram. The story goes, her son came to her in a dream and by morning her hair was white. My family is filled with story tellers. True, we embellish things. I am not sure of the actual details surrounding this momentous event but I know it changed her. How could it not? When a mother loses a child a giant part of her heart is ripped from her chest and she dies a little bit that day. His picture was always on her dresser when I came to visit. She always commented on my curly hair, just like his. But she never told me any stories about him. I heard all kinds of crazy stories about the rest of her children, 5 in all, but never about Gerard. I imagine the pain in remembering made her chest wound open up and bleed. As a child, I never understood. Of course I thought I did, of course I was wrong. As a mother I can’t even begin to imagine the pain she went through. Then one day last year, I could almost imagine. We were in Belgium visiting Ypres. The Meinin Gate was the destination.

I remember hearing my Honey’s excited voice, “WE ARE DRIVING THROUGH IT!” Cool! So we had arrived to the Menin Gate. It was impressive! It records the soldiers of the British Empire without graves. We walked through it, looked at names and saw my son’s name. Although I knew that wasn’t really my son, it still weakened my knees. At that moment I knew I never wanted to actually see my son’s name on a wall. I was ill.

We moved our way up to the grassy park that was high above Yrpes. I needed air, I didn’t share my feelings with my family. My honey wanted to keep exploring but I needed to change my view. Like my Offspring, the time had come for me to end the War Memorial visits. It was starting to affect me.

Today I watched the services from Ottawa, our Nation’s Capital. I saw Prime Minister Harper and his wife lay a wreath, then the young moms of Soldiers who were killed in action Afghanistan. Heart braking. I looked over at Genetic Offspring and requested that he never put me in that position, ever. I am grateful for all the mothers who gave up their boys. I can’t even imagine how they can keep breathing every day. Every boy that is laid to rest in fields all over Europe had a mother. Walking amongst the head stones of boys, whose ages are the same as my son and his friends, or my nephew and his friends, was shattering. The stones all had a maple leaf and if the name was known it was there. If the religion was known, the symbol was on it, be it a cross, star or moon. At that point, I think Religion no longer matters. We are all one under God.

Today I remember the boys whose stories I have heard time and again. I remember the stories of men who lived to tell me about it their time in past wars. I remember friends who have come back from wars in recent memory and retell the vivid stories of things they cannot unsee.

I remember you and your sacrifice and honor your mother for letting you go.

I Remember…

As a kid I grew up listen to stories on both sides of my family about the war. It was always The War. Of course my family meant WWII. It was real to my family, not just some newsreel or stories that had been handed down. Grandfathers, Fathers, Uncles, Brothers, Cousins and Friends all had first hand knowledge of The War. In my family I think my Beloved Great Grandmother known to all as little Gram suffered more than most. Her husband had survived the Great War, but then she was asked to give up her sons for the Second World War. They all came back, except one.

Warrant Office Class I Gerard McEachern, Royal Canadian Airforce, killed in action over the North Sea, 19 May 1943.

He had finished his tour of duty but took one last flight for a buddy who was too sick to go. I heard stories of how my Gram knew it happened before she received the telegram. The story goes, her son came to her in a dream and by morning her hair was white. My family is filled with story tellers. True, we embellish things. I am not sure of the actual details surrounding this momentous event but I know it changed her. How could it not? When a mother loses a child a giant part of her heart is ripped from her chest and she dies a little bit that day. His picture was always on her dresser when I came to visit. She always commented on my curly hair, just like his. But she never told me any stories about him. I heard all kinds of crazy stories about the rest of her children, 5 in all, but never about Gerard. I imagine the pain in remembering made her chest wound open up and bleed. As a child, I never understood. Of course I thought I did, of course I was wrong. As a mother I can’t even begin to imagine the pain she went through. Then one day last year, I could almost imagine. We were in Belgium visiting Ypres. The Meinin Gate was the destination.

I remember hearing my Honey’s excited voice, “WE ARE DRIVING THROUGH IT!” Cool! So we had arrived to the Menin Gate. It was impressive! It records the soldiers of the British Empire without graves. We walked through it, looked at names and saw my son’s name. Although I knew that wasn’t really my son, it still weakened my knees. At that moment I knew I never wanted to actually see my son’s name on a wall. I was ill.

We moved our way up to the grassy park that was high above Yrpes. I needed air, I didn’t share my feelings with my family. My honey wanted to keep exploring but I needed to change my view. Like my Offspring, the time had come for me to end the War Memorial visits. It was starting to affect me.

Today I watched the services from Ottawa, our Nation’s Capital. I saw Prime Minister Harper and his wife lay a wreath, then the young moms of Soldiers who were killed in action Afghanistan. Heart braking. I looked over at Genetic Offspring and requested that he never put me in that position, ever. I am grateful for all the mothers who gave up their boys. I can’t even imagine how they can keep breathing every day. Every boy that is laid to rest in fields all over Europe had a mother. Walking amongst the head stones of boys, whose ages are the same as my son and his friends, or my nephew and his friends, was shattering. The stones all had a maple leaf and if the name was known it was there. If the religion was known, the symbol was on it, be it a cross, star or moon. At that point, I think Religion no longer matters. We are all one under God.

Today I remember the boys whose stories I have heard time and again. I remember the stories of men who lived to tell me about it their time in past wars. I remember friends who have come back from wars in recent memory and retell the vivid stories of things they cannot unsee.

I remember you and your sacrifice and honor your mother for letting you go.

 

The Edmonton Tourist Goes to Belgium!

The last time we spoke of my trip to Europe, we went to Vimy Ridge.  We all slept soundly laid awake for hours in Calais that night. Several farm fields over from the camp ground was a party that sounded like a rockin’ good time! It lasted all night and finally broke up around 6:00 AM, just in time for our Muppet filled caravan to greet the new day and head to Bruges, Belgium. Over breakfast my parents commented on the noise that night – and by noise they didn’t mean Chatterbox puking on the carpet, the meant the Farmville party next door. Apparently it was quieter sleeping at the Barcelona airport where they had picked up my sister weeks before…but I digress…

On the agenda today was Dunkirk and Ypres on the way to Bruges. I had heard of Dunkirk, the great battle that slaughtered Allies by the thousands. Churchill sent a plea out to every one who had row boats, fishing boats or other water craft to sail across the English Chanel and rescue who they could. The kind of story where you expect John Wayne to show up in. Except, Hollywood didn’t have a hand in this tale.

We arrived at Dunkirk early morning. The sun was shining in the cool morning air. We walked along the road to the War Memorial and Cemetery. What got my attention was the large square stones lining the sidewalks. They represented the thousands of soldiers known only to God. It was difficult for the Offspring to walk around and look at the names and ages of the young boys buried beneath the head stones. It was clear, they were ready to see parts of Europe that did not involve any wars of the 20th Century. A difficult task considering the neighborhood we were in, as well as the rest of the Muppet Show Cast was very interested in seeing more war memorabilia. It was their Grandfather who saw the fear in Chatterboxes eyes, and said, “Sweetheart, I’m sick of war stuff too, this will be our last day looking at war things.” Thanks Dad for understanding.

We all piled into the Caravan and headed towards Ypres on a Sunday. Unlike here, most places in Europe close on a Sunday….swell. The Offspring would be so pleased…

As soon as we crossed the border into Belgium, we saw an old wooden windmill. You think anyone would stop so we could take a picture? No, sorry…maybe the next time we see one. For the record, that was THE ONLY old wooden windmill we would ever see.

The arrival into Ypres was fairly amazing. We were looking for yet another War Memorial. Only this time, we drove through it! And NO, I don’t mean my Dad crashed into it, that didn’t happen while we were in the caravan – PHEW! It was a tunnel like structure.

I remember hearing my Honey’s excited voice, “WE ARE DRIVING THROUGH IT!” Cool! So we had arrived to the Menin Gate. It was impressive! It records the soldiers of the British Empire without graves. We walked through it, looked at names and saw my son’s name. Although I knew that wasn’t really my son, it still weakened my knees. At that moment I knew I never wanted to actually see my son’s name on a wall. I was ill.

We moved our way up to the grassy park that was high above Yrpes. I needed air, I didn’t share my feelings with my family. My honey wanted to keep exploring but I needed to change my view. Like my Offspring, the time had come for me to end the War Memorial visits. It was starting to affect me.

As we climbed into the sunshine I saw the most beautiful view. It was enough to change my focus. I suggested to The Muppet Show Cast that we head down towards the street level and explore the town for a while. Besides, I needed chocolate. I was in the country where the best chocolate in the WORLD is made! (If my Boss happens to read this post, FYI it is not Guatemala!)

The street we explored was call Victor Hugo – cool name for a street. Being Sunday, everything on Victor Hugo was closed except the Church, the 16 Pubs, and the Chocolate Shop! Sweet joyous chocolate, open on a Sunday? I must have died and gone to heaven! I spotted the shop from down the street. I lost track of the Muppets around me. It was like my destiny flashed before my eyes and showed me my future. I was destined to walk into that shop.

The Owner walked in from the behind the magic curtain – likely wasn’t really magic but to me it was. She greeted us and I spoke English to her hoping she was fluent. SUCCESS! She explained to me the wondrous delights that were displayed under the glass. We talked about how she hand makes them herself in the back, no factory bulk chocolate here! IT really was heaven and I was there to experience it! I asked advice on purchasing a variety. I needed some for my team, some for honey’s office, some for my boss and an EXTRA LARGE FABULOUS BOX for me! Honey bought a small sample bag to eat instead of lunch. The total for 5 boxes of handmade, the most delicious chocolates ever, was 15 euros. 15!!!! As I sit writing this I wish I bought myself 6 more boxes. Oh well Hind sight is 20/20.

As we strolled back to the caravan with chocolate smeared all over our faces, I thought about how thankful I was that I had my family to share this experience with and how it felt not to have my son on the wall.

Next stop, Bruges.