Friday, November 11, 2016
Bearing the Scars—Carolyn R. Wilker
Across the country today, people will gather at cenotaphs and lay wreaths for the soldiers who gave up their lives for our country. There are likely only a small number of those veterans from the World Wars remaining who might lay a wreath to their comrades or read from a list of young men from the community who ‘answered the call’ to fight in a war that was not of their making.
In many communities, you can see names carved in a monument of citizens who went away to fight and never returned. Of those who came home, many were physically wounded and bearing scars we can’t see. It would change their lives forever. While Remembrance Day is mainly for the World Wars, our military has also fought in other places around the world, including Afghanistan, where they were called to defend or fight. A soldier might go away bravely, but come back different and unable to cope, or they might pick up their job and try to carry on.
All wars have a cost. The soldiers went away, likely believing they could make a difference and those who returned home either talked about it or they didn’t. I only know from the stories I’ve heard of people who lived through war in their country, who were deprived of a bread winner who was enlisted to fight, or that they were fearful for their lives about what was going on around them. In Canada, we’ve had more distance from it.
My own mother-in-law shared little, but she did tell me about one situation in her life during the war. I could only imagine her family’s fear when soldiers came knocking on their door demanding their home as a place for soldiers to stay. The family could only take with them what they could load on a wagon. Their place for the nights and days that followed was the forest. She told me of worrying about wild animals there while they slept on the ground. I hurt for her as she told it. I felt fearful for her as a young girl, a fear she carried into adulthood and to the end of her life. It caused her much angst; her experience changed her and affected the lives of those around her.
A storyteller relates an occurrence of soldiers laying down their guns on Christmas Eve in France, sharing treats, pictures from home and singing carols with their opponents and then having to pick up those guns the next day. I’m sure there were many stories of bravery too, and of being decorated for a heroic act, but I cannot write those. They are others’ stories of survival.
Today is one of heaviness that’s hard to talk about and harder to write, maybe a reason that few go to the cenotaph service. If we remember anything from those who speak candidly of their war experiences, show respect and help us to recognize the cost.
If we can work for peace, all the better for us.
We do have one who bears scars for us. Jesus Christ died for us and experienced the agony of the cross for humanity’s sin. He died that we might live. We were loved before we could love. If it helps at all today, let us think about peace and practise it.
“Make me a channel of your peace...” inspired by the prayer of St Francis of Assisi
Listen to the song here.
Carolyn Wilker, editor, author and storyteller from southwestern Ontario
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