Remembrance Project Day 6 and 7: Darkness and Light

Photo by Rahul Pandit on

Happy Diwali, friends! Well, Happy Diwali-plus-one, since I didn’t post this on Wednesday.

Diwali is the Hindu (and Sikh, and sometimes Muslim and Buddhist) festival of light. It celebrates light over darkness, good over evil, kindness over cruelty, and hope over despair. And that feels like a pretty great thing to celebrate. Choose the bigger life – choose the kinder path.

A few years ago, there was a letter to the editor in our little hometown newspaper. Someone was VERY upset that someone DARED to set off fireworks on Diwali, which just so happened to fall on Remembrance Day. Even though fireworks are a part of the Diwali celebrations. Because it was disrespectful to veterans for there to be anything on Remembrance Day except Remembrance Day.

Um. What?

And friends, I get it. I understand that fireworks can be triggers for some military folks with PTSD. But that wasn’t the letter writer’s point. From the tone of the letter in the newspaper those many years ago, the writer didn’t want to steal the spotlight from the Canadians who fought and died. I thought about how Diwali was about choosing knowledge over ignorance and the irony was not lost on me.

But friends, there’s room for more than one event in our lives. It’s OK to memorialize and celebrate on the same day. My grandmother died on my sister’s 3rd birthday. And for many years afterwards, her birthday was eclipsed by the memorial mass that everyone attended. But then someone realized that life is for the living, so they now attend mass in the morning, and we celebrate my sister in the evening.

So yes, it’s Remembrance season – so absolutely do remembrance things. But claiming dibs on a day of the year and giving the stink eye to everyone who strays from that glorious purpose feels pretty draconian. Yes, there are Diwali fireworks. Yes, there are Christmas things up in stores already. Yes, the Hallmark movies have started already. It doesn’t mean I can’t wear a poppy while I buy my holiday garland. Or mail Christmas cards on my way to the cenotaph to pay my respects. Or go to the Legion for a little fellowship and raise a glass to absent friends, and then sing Last Christmas on the way home to make Samosas for Diwali. There’s room for more than one thing, I promise.

There are things that *are* disrespectful. Sitting on the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Desecrating a Field of Honour. Wearing medals that you didn’t earn. Chirping in someone’s ear as they’re trying to pay their respects. Not OK.

But setting off fireworks to celebrate a festival of light? Maybe we pump the brakes a bit and look at what the celebration is about. Light over darkness. Light in dark times. Everyone struggles with encroaching darkness sometimes, and having a part of your culture that celebrates victory over that feels like an excellent thing to celebrate. Yesterday, I watched the heavy grey clouds and first snow of the year blow past my office window. The dark days are coming. But bright days are coming, too.

Yes, this year, let’s choose knowledge over ignorance. May I be a light to someone who might need that, and may I take time to pay respects to those who deserve that.

May light always guide your way this Diwali, friends, and all year long.

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