Who Do You Remember?

On the regional CBC noontime program today, they were asking listeners to call in and answer the question, “On this Remembrance Day, who do you remember?” I didn’t call in, but if I had, I would have talked about my great-uncle, John Hay, and his and my grandfather’s cousin, Alec.

My great-uncle John was a member of the Cape Breton Highlanders, who fought in the Second World War and came home with scars mental and physical and a drinking problem that eventually ended his life. In those days there was little help for those who came home broken and unable to adjust to what they had been a part of. He died when I was still a child, and I don’t remember much about him, to my regret. The only “war story” of his that I recall was of the time when, on the front lines, he knelt down to tie a bootlace that had come undone, and heard the bullet whistle over his head exactly where he had just been standing.

My grandfather’s cousin Alec went off to the First World War and sadly did not come home at all. We have a postcard that he (then around 18) sent to my grandfather, who was then 9 or 10 years old and worried about him. It’s very poignant to hold it and read it, and his assurances to his young cousin that he would be fine, and know that he would die shortly after writing it.

I didn’t get to the local service today, but I did listen to the services from Halifax and Ottawa on the radio, and was moved as usual by the strains of the Last Post and Piper’s Lament. I also made sure to listen to Terry Kelly’s moving song, “A Pittance of Time,” which you can find here.

So, if you are a Canadian observing Remembrance Day or anyone observing Poppy Day, Armistice Day, Veterans Day, or related days of remembrance, who do you remember?