When I was a child, Remembrance Sunday was a day of some significance in our lives.
We were taught to respect and honour those who had fallen. We knew our father had fought in the second world war too. To him I believe it was a day of mixed visceral hard emotions. Only once that I recall, having been asked by his children why he did not wear his medals, did he do so. He did not wear them again.
As a child I found it hard. I remember very strongly being in a choir, wondering how I was going to sing if I cried, and how awful it would be if people saw me cry (these things matter greatly of course in the peer-dominated world of the teenager!). I remember I did cry.
As an adult, I suspect I share some of the same challenges with the emotional, intellectual and philosophical questions raised by formal Remembrance events; yet my belief that we must remember, and indeed that there is some shared collective experience, is strong and certain. It remains rare that the sounding of the Last Post leaves me dry-eyed.
Today I went to London and, with many thousands of others, looked at the many poppies around the Tower of London.
It rained for part of my visit. The jostling for photograph lines seemed an undue priority for many. Inevitably wet strangers queuing pushed at times, and there were pockets of inane chatter all around. I found the penchant for grinning selfies with the poppies as backdrop bewildering.
Yet despite all these distractions I found the experience moving, important, thought-provoking. Yes I cried. And I too took a few photos (I too live in 2014!). Mostly though I just took the time to look, to think, to remember. Every poppy a life given, a family hurt, pain and distress endured, loss encapsulated and individual yet also shared with so many.
We must remember.
We do remember.
We will remember.
“At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.”