Remembrance, is to call to mind. It is the act of remembering, to bring into one’s thoughts, to be mindful. Shakespeare reminds us: ‘Praising what is lost, makes the remembrance dear.’ Communally, collectively, we stand, tight lipped and solemn, some in uniform at the annual parade and outpouring of love. It is a sad, emotional time, everyone responds to Remembrance Sunday in his or her own way – on parade or slightly apart, and yet remembering, quietly. Bugles sound, orders are barked. The two minutes silence profound. And medals glisten in the morning sun. As a nation, as a commonwealth, we remember, locally and globally. We remember with tears, those who died in battle a century ago – our grandfathers’ era, and those who died in wars and campaigns more recently.
We shed tears. ‘Jesus wept’ for his belovéd friend Lazarus. His Disciples wept for their Lord and Teacher. “Do this in remembrance of Me.” We remember the wars culturally in poetry, prose and paintings. Mourning the loss and recalling the sadness, and telling of the futility of wars is the province of Jones, Sassoon and Blunden, and other war poets, and the war artists include the Nash brothers, Spencer, Eric Ravilious. Mankind weeps for the loss of innocence, the inability to learn, and the absence of love. Mankind is often unforgiving. ‘There’s rosemary, that’s for remembrance ..’ the ill-fated Ophelia tells us. Rosemary contains, so the ancients believed, certain properties, chemicals, which kept the memory fresh. Thereafter, it became the flower of remembrance. The outburst of poppies on scarred battlefields in France, changed this sobriquet, aided by John McCrae’s poem ‘In Flanders Fields, the poppies blow …’ After World War 1 the symbol of the red poppy as a reminder of the Fallen became accepted by the nation, as a memorial of the sacrifice made, by so many young men.
War touches everyone, and links past and present, the quick and the dead. We cannot remember past battles without the hope of future peace. Love and hope are dimmed in war but the lamps of both are never extinguished. Remembering is an act of turning up the lamp wicks, bringing the Greater Light to the scene. There has to be an accumulated desire to cast away the evils of war, and to embrace peace, to live peace, and reject war utterly. To remember is to stand, with dignity and human love, and to talk of peace. Remembering is not to glorify war. When old soldiers meet it is to remember those who died, and to renew friendship with the living, not to relive and relish the taking of life. And … this quotation was given to me on a trip to Israel; I visited the Holocaust Memorial, Yad Vashem. Remember Golda Meir? She said: “Those who don’t know how to weep with their whole hearts, don’t know how to laugh, either.”
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