Remembering on the road

lest we forgetThis Rememberance day started appropriately gloomy with rain and fog as I hit the road. I was meeting my mother so we could join our dear friend Ceri for a catch-up lunch in Owen Sound. I traditionally attend Remembrance Day ceremonies, but given the distance we were all travelling to be together it couldn’t be helped.

My mother and I discussed the dispute between those of us that stick to the opening line of  Flanders Fields being ‘In Flanders Fields the poppies grow’ vs the recently popular version of ‘In Flanders Fields the poppies blow’. Since Canadian poet, physician and soldier John McRae died  in the last year of WW1, I guess we’ll never know if he had a preference.


As the sun came out and we passed through the small towns along the way we couldn’t help but notice the crowds gathering by their respective memorials. I felt a pang of regret but tuning into the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation radio station to listen to what was happening in Ottawa made us feel a little more connected to the ceremonies.

Since moving to a smaller town I’ve noticed that people are different in many ways. It was a few minutes before 11am as we passed through farm country that I observed some cars had started to pull over and then the large freight truck ahead of me lumbered over to the side of the road too. I suddenly realized what was happening, pulled over and joined this unlikely community remembrance. My mother, who had been a child in Britain in WW2, cried quietly beside me as the The Last Post began, we had some silent reflection, listened to reveille and minutes later we all pulled back onto the road and continued on our way. Extraordinary.


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57 Responses to Remembering on the road

  1. Denzil says:

    A lovely memory. I’d always thought the last word was “grow”. I have never heard the version with “blow”

  2. Touching post. We have no similar community tribute for those who lost their lives in war. But for the families they leave behind, everyday must be a day of remembrance , of everyday moments, trivial and large, that they had shared, hopes and dreams that were shattered along with the blasts of the guns. Such a tragedy of our species that we still haven’t learnt that there is so much possibility for love and beauty which is being squandered away in the lust for power.

  3. A spirited post. May something like this never happen again – although war is still being fought too many places in the world.

  4. This post touched my heart.
    It is so sad they shall not grow old but live, only, in our hearts.
    Those young brave men, poppies blown in the wind
    Oh, when will we ever learn.
    Just to love and be loved in return.
    Our songs are not heard.
    How sad.

    • So sad indeed. Thanks for your comment Jack.

      • The first verse is sad and the last verse is very sad.
        “Take up the quarrel with the foe.” I quote..
        The poem was used as propaganda in the conscription crisis in Canada.
        Please tell me who is this foe?
        Who benefits from war not the ones that fire the bullets but the ones that sell the bullets. .
        Your post shows the pain and futility of war.
        Every thing is subject to change is a universal truth.
        Enemies become valued tourists and trading partners.
        When will we rise above hate, greed and ignorance? _/\_

  5. Inger says:

    Thank you so much for sharing this precious moment. It really hit my heart. Remembrance Day is not celebrated in Norway, but we have something called Veterans Day. But it is not nearly as big as Remembrance Day is here in Canada. With both my father and husband being veterans this is very dear to my heart and I get very emotional about respect veterans are shown this day. Thank you.

  6. badfish says:

    a very moving piece!! really…

  7. The echoes of WW1 were still very strong in my young life, as my auntie grew up without her father. He was killed in 1917 when she was only 2 years old. Her mother never remarried and the last photo taken of him in uniform with his wife and two young daughters was always beside her bed, until her death about ten years’ back. We still observe the silence, in his memory, and many others beside. Just recently in delving into family history, I was surprised to discover a distant relative who served in the Canadian Infantry, 47th Battalion. I even found a newspaper article where he sang at a New Years Eve 1915 gathering when the men were resting in a YMCA tent behind the lines, after having spent Christmas Day in the trenches. He made it back fortunately, eventually dying in New Westminster in 1950.

  8. Nancy says:

    An amazing post… I never knew of this commemorative way of pulling over to the side of the road. How touching!
    Thank Goodness for our soldiers.
    Prayers for peace continues!

  9. Gallivanta says:

    I doubt any traffic in New Zealand would have stopped unless the drivers were listening to National Radio at the time. I was reading the newspaper at home, and when the moment of silence was announced on the radio I sat quietly and remembered. The ‘poppies blow’ is new wording to me. I am glad you and your mother shared this special time.

  10. pommepal says:

    A very special moment for you and your Mum.

  11. Lavinia Ross says:

    That was a beautiful, and unusual, community remembrance. Thank you for sharing that with us.

  12. restlessjo says:

    Yes, very extraordinary, and what a wonderful gesture! There were many moving tributes all around the world and I don’t think that you necessarily need to attend a ceremony to feel the common bond. I was at the end of a t’ai chi class when 11 o’clock chimed. We spent our 2 minutes in silent communion. I’m glad you could share yours with your mum. 🙂

  13. Sue Slaght says:

    As you described the scene I had shivers. So respectful that drivers pull over. Your Mom was obviously very moved.

  14. Sheryl says:

    The poppies have become such a powerful and enduring symbol.

  15. Gunta says:

    I’ve lived in large cities and small towns and never saw this sort of commemoration. I definitely honor the service of our brave soldiers, but have mixed feelings about glorifying war in any way whatsoever. I guess this is somewhat similar to Herman’s comment. It’s difficult to see some of our parades as “reflecting on the need to work for peace so war doesn’t happen again”. I much prefer that moment of silence to the pomp and glory displays.

    • I agree. And the over the top glorification of war that accompanies some U.S. football events is shocking. Now that we’ve discovered that the military is actually paying sponsorship fees for this ‘patriotism’ I guess we know why. Thanks for your comment.

  16. mommermom says:

    What a beautiful and touching remembrance. Yes, extraordinary.

  17. This was beautiful and I shed a tear. Didn’t know that people pulled over at 11 a.m. to honour the fallen with a moment of silence Thanks for sharing. I attended in Port Elgin and it was moving.

  18. That poem is always moving to read. I think it’s wonderful to honour the fallen with the two minute silence. My young South African granddaughter who is studying in England has yet to get used to the 2 minute silence on Remembrance Day. She rather let the side down when she walked into a store, chatting and laughing at just after midday with her friend, to find everyone as she described it, “Frozen and dead silent”. She said it really scared her because it was “just like something out of a movie where time pauses.” She didn’t realise why there was absolute silence and asked her friend in a frightened voice, “Why is everyone frozen?” Her friend who is English, just told her to “Shut up.” My granddaughter said that she then started thinking that there might be a gunman holding up the store, so she stood frozen as well. When the silence was over and her friend told her the reason, she just wished for the floor to open up and swallow her whole. 🙂

  19. Herman Rosenfeld says:

    I always feel so conflicted over this holiday: the bitter memories of sacrifices over the great crusade of World War 2 – versus the horrible pro-imperialist interventions that wasted lives ever since; the guilt of the business-driven politicians and policy-makers who start the wars, versus the needless losses of young men and women (and civilians) and their families as a result; the use of this memorial by militarists versus the mothers and fathers who mourn the loss of their kids who will never grow up; the dumb imperialist interventionist wars versus the young people – many of whom joined the army just to get a job – who are either maimed or come home with PTSD time bombs in their heads.

    Looking forward to seeing you on the 27th,


    • It is sometimes hard to distinguish ones self from those who glorify war but the remembrance has traditionally been about reflecting on the need to work for peace so war doesn’t happen again – not that that has gone so well:-( Also about the victims of war both military and civilian…

  20. quilt32 says:

    Such a lovely, personal way to observe this day. The poem has always been a favorite, but I have never heard the phrase, “poppies blow”. It would be appropriate, though.

  21. margaret21 says:

    A few years ago, this type of remembrance – stopping all activity in supermarkets, pulling in off the road and so on, simply no longer happened in the UK. Now it’s become important again, despite fewer people having very direct memories. These are special moments, and it’s good that people are increasingly aware that we should never forget.

  22. Brenda elliott says:

    Extraordinary indeed. And very moving.

  23. Lovely post! We went to the Remembrance Sunday service at church on Sunday which was very moving. I took my mother out shopping today as usual and there was a two minutes silence in the supermarket. It was so strange to be in there with absolute silence and nobody moving!

  24. joannesisco says:

    I too spent the 11th hour one year on the side of the road with other motorists. It felt odd, yet strangely connected.
    Remembering, commemorating, reflecting, being grateful … critical that we never forget.

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