I’ve rewritten some thoughts on Remembrance Day numerous times now. Somehow the words don’t seem to fit.
I had the chance recently of visiting the Australian and New Zealand War Memorials which are both brilliant, sobering and moving tributes to those that have been wounded or killed defending their countries and it has caused me to think very carefully about their sacrifice this Remembrance Day.
Four are my thoughts on this and four times other, better people have more articulately recorded their thoughts on paper better than I could ever hope to. The four thoughts following are linked and in order. I won’t commentate my thoughts on them but I’d be interested to hear yours. I’ll let the words speak for themselves.
The first is the oft quoted fourth stanza of the Ode of Remembrance (1914) by Laurence Binyon:
They shall not grow old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
The second is the poem In Flanders Fields (1915) by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae after the bloody Battle of Ypres:
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago,
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
The third thought comes from the pen of Native American Chief Tecumpseh:
So live your life that the fear of death can never enter your heart.
Trouble no one about their religion; respect others in their view and demand that they respect yours.
Love your life, perfect your life, beautify all things in your life.
Seek to make your life long and its purpose in the service of your people.
Prepare a noble death song for the day when you go over the great divide.
Always give a word or a sign of salute when meeting or passing a friend, even a stranger, when in a lonely place.
Show respect to all people and grovel to none.
When you arise in the morning give thanks for the food and for the joy of living.
If you see no reason for giving thanks, the fault lies only in yourself.
Abuse no one and no thing, for abuse turns the wise ones to fools and robs the spirit of its vision.
When it comes your time to die, be not like those whose hearts are filled with the fear of death, so that when their time comes they weep and pray for a little more time to live their lives over again in a different way.
Sing your death song and die like a hero going home.
Lastly, the words of the Bible:
Greater love has no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.
The words that Tecumpseh writes are not in remembrance of those who have died but a challenge to those who still live. I don’t agree with some of what he says but that is for another day. One exception I will make and with this thought I’ll leave you. Don’t live your life preparing a death song. Don’t spend your whole time on Earth without asking yourself the questions, ‘Who am I and why am I here?’ and then looking earnestly for the answer.
Don’t prepare a death song. Sing a life song. Every day of your life. Start now. There are some who already showed us how.
Lest we forget.