Today we make the effort to remember, to honor and to show our gratitude for the sacrifices made by others, on our behalf.
As I write this I hear the rain falling outside the window, I see my wife getting her affairs in order for the day ahead, I touch the extra red poppy that gets propped beside the computer work station, and I remember all those who can no longer listen or see or touch the world they left behind.
It may be said that there will be two parades at the ceremony we're going to attend downtown. The city's memorial tribute ends with a proud procession of people of all ages, from aged veterans in wheelchairs at the front to young cadets marching under flags at the rear. This march spreads over a few city blocks, and it's a grand sight to see. But first will come another parade, as an ever-increasing number of representatives walk the short distance to the Cenotaph in order to place wreaths on behalf of their groups of fallen comrades.
They are there in place of thousands of others who can no longer be there themselves, and as they mount their wreaths at the base of the Cenotaph I always strain to imagine a picture of who they are representing, to try and see them, hear them, touch them in my mind's eye. We may be seeing the single steps of solitary veterans, reverently placing wreath after wreath, but with each passing year it becomes even more important to keep seeing those who never walk again, so that we all may stand here, today, at this ceremony. On this day their unseen steps echo far louder in my memory than even those of the brave souls marching alongside bands and banners at ceremony's end.
The true climax of Vancouver's Remembrance Day ceremony, however, doesn't conclude with the veterans parade; there's a final, humble and unofficial ritual that many of us stay to perform. We circle the Cenotaph, some with more personal purpose than others. They are searching for the individual wreath that serves to remind the world of their lost loved one, and when they see it, they pull the red poppy formerly carried in their collar and pin it to the memorial wreath, an annual embrace of commitment that their sacrifice has not been forgotten. I usually wait a few moments before making my own personal rounds to make my own personal tribute with my own red poppy; I've come to appreciate observing the appreciations expressed by my fellow Canadians, as their example keeps making it easier for me to see the unseen, to imagine the thousands present in spirit, their shadow made as real and palpable as that of the Cenotaph at the center of our attention on this day.
Thank You for your sacrifice, Godspeed to your families and may God Keep Canada, True Strong and Free.