The bagpipes lead the crowd of several hundred to the cenotaph for the wreath laying. Children are shushed, hoods pulled over ears as the zero degree temperatures cause minds to entertain indoor coffee options by the fire. But for a half hour wreathes are placed in honour of those from this area that lost their lives in battle. A wise-for-his- years middle schooler poet reads his Remembrance Day poem and thanks those who have given their lives for our freedom. Tears frost in the corner of my eyes, as I feel the pain of mothers who have lost sons; these lost in combat.
While a high school student reads In Flanders Fields, I stumble on the challenge, to Take up the quarrel with the foe. Haven’t enough quarrels been taken up, and passed on? Who is our foe? (My mind asks if it could be faux pas on our part?) The very definition of foe keeps changing, as the nature of conflict is revised. Philosophical debates about war are easy, when battle zones are far removed. Daily the media gives images of some foe that brings terror to peace; all viewed from the comfort of my armchair, with a remote to help keep it removed from my life.
Two years ago I visited the American Battle monument in Carthage, on North African soil. I had no idea that 2, 841 soldiers were buried there, row on row. Overwhelmed I viewed the white crosses, while my heart sighed a collective sorrow for all the mothers grieving the loss of these sons. I wonder if this generation of mothers wants to take up the quarrel with the foe? Or is the foe the idea that peace cannot be achieved without war? I am not a militant activist or pacifist, but I wonder about the high cost of conflict.
And the possibility of peace, especially as we begin the season of Peace on earth, Goodwill towards men. Oh that it would be so. How does the song line go?
Let there be peace on earth and let it begin with me.