Today begins the triduum of Allhallowtide – All Hallow’s Eve (Halloween), All Saints, and All Souls feast days. My favourite time of year.
For a long time, I’ve been fascinated by the concept of The Danse Macabre. On Halloween night, the Danse Macabre allows the residents of cemeteries to rise from their graves for a night of frivolity. The allegory of it is that everyone participates in the dance, from young and old, distinguished and humble. Death unites everyone, no matter your station when you died. The Danse is the great equalizer – no one gets out alive.
A few years back, on a visit to the National Military Cemetery of the Canadian Forces in Ottawa, I was hanging back while Connor did some research. I walked past the monument, and stopped to wait. As I waited, I looked at a few of the rows of white grave markers around me. There was a Colonel buried between a Private and a Corporal. There were 2 soldiers, hardly in their 20s, buried beside an elder veteran who died in his 90s. All of them having contributed to the tasks of their military service, some of them having died for the effort.
In the last few years, Mike and Connor both took history courses wherein they studied the British Expeditionary Forces and Canadian Forces during the Great Wars. Their course materials had the names of the officers you’d expect to hear. All the rest of the inconcievable numbers of soldiers in the European Theatre, the wounded, the dead, were all cadigans like “the Canadians” or “the Allied Forces”. Nameless. Ageless. Without rank or appointment. Anonymous masses of uniforms. The Danse Macabre.
This Remembrance Season, may I remember the contributions of all members of the BEF and the CAF, however small or huge the task, however short or lengthy their service.