Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Remembrance - War of Attrition

November 11. Remembrance Day, Armistice Day, Veterans Day, Poppy Day, and Anzac Day are all different ways of expressing the same thing: the need to remember. It is something I am rather poor at, as I typically and easily invest my energy in the present.

But today I choose to remember:

1. Those who fought against tyranny and evil;

2. Those who put their lives on the line today to give us safety and security; and

3. The elderly, especially those with Parkinson's, who are so easily forgotten.

Remembrance Day is 90 years old this year, having been formally created by King George V in 1919 as a commemoration of those who lost their lives in World War I. And today there is only one living Canadian veteran of that war (a total of 5 worldwide). John "Jack" Babcock is 109 years old. Soon his ability to retell his experience in that horrible world conflict will be gone. Will we remember it then? Few remember even the Second World War, except through secondhand, often faulty, impressions left by movies and television.

Due largely to the complexity and speed of life, the frenetic demands of the present and the need to anticipate and plan for the uncertain future easily override the past and eliminate time to remember. The Internet and television show us the minute-by-minute battles fought by young people in foreign lands today. These are the images that permeate our contemporary thinking.

It is ironic that ‘remembering’ seems to be a pastime of older folks. But who remembers them? The elders of our society (whether soldiers or civilians) are rarely recognized or celebrated. They are most typically relegated, both literally and figuratively, to dusty, misunderstood and often quite forgotten places. They are sometimes left with little more than reminiscences of days gone by. The pain and pleasure of long ago fill the minds of even those who are unable to adequately engage the present, or fathom any future. It is the young and glamorous who rule our world.

This is also seems true in the world of Parkinson's, where the media profile the plight of the young, the famous or the extraordinary. But the shaky and stiff seniors of our society often suffer silently, forgotten. As with veterans from the various wars, those older folks with PD live and then pass with little notice, as if they had nothing further to contribute. It is my job, our job, to remember, value and venerate these history makers among us, wherever they fought or still fight their battles. In many ways, like the soldiers of yesterday, they gave us what we have today.

“Lest We Forget”, words that have taken on a specific meaning in relation to Remembrance Day, could appropriately be tied back to Rudyard Kipling’s 1897 poem, "Recessional", from whence they came. That poem is not about war, but about society forgetting its roots and values, its need for humility, and remembering those upon whose shoulders we stand. Let us not forget. Let’s take time to remember and honor those who clear the path ahead of us, be they soldiers or seniors.

1 comment:

  1. That's such a great reminder Bob! I like your thoughts about humility and remembering those upon whose shoulders we stand. Blake T. thought to phone his Grandpa on Wednesday and thank him for fighting in the war to secure our freedom. Isn't it wonderful when young people do remember their roots and values!
    I love what you write in your is very important and your writing is compelling.