The city where I live is an amalgamation of three, and as such, our amalgamated city of Cambridge has three Canadian Legions and three cenotaphs. Each is different – the tall obelisk in Hespeler; the carved guardian in Preston, and the carved Victory and Peace in Galt. Each one feels different to me, when I’ve attended services there. When we lived in the Ottawa Valley, our tiny little rural town’s cenotaph was a small rock cairn. In Ottawa, there is the massive National War Memorial. In Vancouver, the imposing wall of their cenotaph in Gastown. They all speak to me differently.
I attended today’s ceremony at the Preston cenotaph, closest to my house. It wasn’t supposed to be a big event, what with the social distancing. But that didn’t dissuade lots of people from going. We watched the flag party, we listened to Last Post and La Rousse, we listened to the benefactors of the wreaths that had been earlier laid. We sang, most of us from behind masks, God Save the Queen. There were more than I was expecting; really. But I’m not surprised, really. Cambridge has the armoury for Royal Highland Fusiliers of Canada, and we support them, and all who have trained through those buttressed walls for over a hundred years.
In past, Child (when he was a child) and I would gather poppies over the course of the year, and on the night of Remembrance Day, we would bring them to the Preston Cenotaph, because he always said that was where they belong. I loved that he came to this on his own. His (then) cadet duties brought him to the Galt service as the RSM of his corps, and to the Hespeler service as Drum Major and CSM. But he always took the orphaned poppies home to the Cenotaph in Preston.
Today, I noticed that they had plain wreath – the Wreath of Thanksgiving they called it – that people attending the ceremony could use to leave their poppies. The wreath would have a place of honour at the Preston Legion’s Remembrance banquet, and would be prominently displayed for the rest of the year. I wear a crocheted poppy now that I got at the Imperial War Museum in London, England a few years ago, so I didn’t have a poppy to add to the Wreath. But while I was there, a little girl, maybe 4 or 5, found a poppy on the ground. Her mother took her over to put the poppy on the Wreath of Thanksgiving. I went over to the wreath on my way out of the park, and it was really moving to see how fully covered it was with those paying their respects this morning.
I may pass by one more time, later tonight, on a walk with Louie. He’ll stop to smell all the animals that walked through the park that day, which gives me another quiet moment to pay my respects one last time before the wreaths and poppies are packed away until next year.
If you can choose to do anything today, friends, choose to be grateful, and choose to be kind.