Friday, November 12, 2010

Remembrance Day 2010

What a poignant day it is every year: fewer and fewer brave old soldiers pin on their medals with shaky fingers and slowly march or are wheeled to the service. We lost several gallant old souls from our Three Hills community this past year and their absence was keenly felt, no more so than among the tiny group of them who remains. 

I was privileged to be asked to play the piano for our community's Remembrance Day gathering this year; Rev David Smith led the service and gave the homily.

And then it was straight back to the TH for "what is becoming a tradition," as 87-year-old vet Dixon Carter told me: lunch at Nilgiris, with the veterans and service people who come invited to be our honoured guests.

With the absence of a couple of ladies who slipped away before I could get their picture, here is our 2010 Honour Roll:

Dixon Carter

Dixon was with us last year too, and he said he had been looking forward to today's lunch with his daughter. Dixon is now 87, and his story is here. He asked me if I would be doing this again next year, and I told him I was booking a date with him, same time same place, for the next 13 years ...

Gordon and Sandy Head

You can read about Gordon and my lovely Kathleen at the same link as Dixon's, above. How these two look out for each other! She worries about his pills and his back and he worries that too much sugar might make her ill. And they hold hands and gaze at each other like they are viewing something precious. Which they are. She told me, "You know, you are the only person who calls me by my given name ..."

Phil Johnson

Phil recited "In Flanders Field" at the Remembrance Day service. I have never heard those words spoken with such persuasion. When I remarked on that to him at lunch, he replied, "You see, it's not just words to me." After I showed them their picture, Phil asked, "Who is that old man?" Quick as a flash Marion responded, "I don't know, but I sure like the looks of his young wife!"

Jeff Leeder

So tall his head brushes the lights in the TH, Jeff was a kid who was heading down the wrong track. He was kicked out of Prairie high school and swore he'd never come back to this town. Quite a few years later, he has returned: he bears a chestful of medals from engagements in Grenada, Afghanistan, Iraq. He has two wonderful children - Jenna (of "rock-band" fame on my Halloween blog!) and Owen, AKA "The Boy". His lovely wife was absent today. When I asked the kids where she was they told me she was "at the depot" - she has joined the RCMP. This family knows what it means to serve and they do it willingly.

Jeff fully understands the cost of sacrifice. He understands far more clearly than most of us the immeasurable value of blood shed on behalf of another. On his arm is tattooed one word: "Forgiven."  

Margaret Trentham

Margaret is the President of our local Legion chapter. She devotes countless hours to our town and the veterans and servicemen and women. It is in large measure thanks to her vigilance that this town comes together during the month of November to remember, to mourn, to honour.

Richard Pettifer

This is a hard day for Richard; when I asked him what he was up to he replied, simply, "Remembering." Here is a man who has given so much that even his heart has been stripped from him ... literally: He has lived with a heart transplant for 14 years. But the kindness of his original heart has never left him. The memories remain, in varying shades of light and shadow. And he moves onward, forward, like a good soldier, picking up the pieces of his life and transforming them into something just as resplendent, just as noble, just as meaningful.

Richard never takes for granted the value of life and he honours it with every fibre of his being.

Corinne Rivett

Corinne is a frequent guest at the TH; but it was not until today that her daughter quietly mentioned to me that her mother had served in the Air Force ("She doesn't want you to feel like you have to make a fuss of her," Pat confided). I asked Corinne to tell me her story. "I was in one of the last three squadrons deployed by the Air Force in 1945," she said. "I had to wait till I turned 18 and then I was gone. I couldn't wait to serve."

All the French lemon pie in the world cannot repay this dear woman for the sacrifices she made and the willingness with which she served.

Marc Reid

"I was in the infantry," Marc proclaimed. "It was right in 1944-1945; the Germans heard I was coming and they surrendered!" In Marc's characteristically self-deprecating way, he downplays his service - "I was only there for the last bit of the war; there were many of my buddies who were there the whole time, who didn't make it ..."

Marc was missing his dear Verna today. Together they had started the old Coffee Break family restaurant in Three Hills many years ago. For me, Verna is the gold standard of hospitality. "She would have loved what you did today, Karyn."

With those words, I felt like I had been bestowed with a medal myself.

Ronnie Weick

A noble spirit; he and his wife are my neighbours and, by happy coincidence, their daughter Elaine - whom I met through Carswell - has been my friend for a number of years!

The travails of war, and of life, are catching up with Ron and he was unable to participate in the service today. It seemed to me, watching from the piano as the valiant parade of veterans marked the start of our service, that there was an enormous gap where Ron would have been. BA took over roast beef dinner for them and they received it with great gratitude and humility. I hope they know that it is we who are grateful and humbled by what they have done for our country, for our world.

Jessie Howe

Lloyd Howe was a valiant soldier and Jessie, his beautiful bride, was a devoted volunteer during the war. The last time I saw Lloyd was a couple of weeks before he passed away. I took him a chocolate pie because I had bumped into Jessie at the post office and she had commented that Lloyd had said just that day that since the TH had closed he hadn't had a decent piece of chocolate pie.

When I went to their little apartment Lloyd was sitting quietly in his big easy chair. His face lit up when he saw what I was carrying. "I don't remember your name, but I sure do remember your chocolate pie!" he exclaimed happily.

Lloyd was buried on September 21, 2007, the day before my Mum.

I phoned Jessie up to be my personal guest at the TH this Remembrance day. On our menu board, where I listed all the desserts, at the bottom I wrote

"Chocolate Pie for Buck"

What would we do without the faithfulness of these men and women who have given so much for our freedom? As their numbers inexorably dwindle and time claims one after another, we must never, never forget. 

We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again, some sunny day.
Keep smiling through, just like you always do,
'Til the blue skies drive the dark clouds far away.

So will you please say hello to the folks that I know,
Tell them I won't be long.
They'll be happy to know that as you saw me go,
I was singing this song:

We'll meet again, don't know where, don't know when,
But I know we'll meet again, some sunny day.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Remembrance Week: A Most Precious Gift

I braced myself to enter Costco on Friday and as I was just starting down the aisles I heard, "Hello, Dahling!"

It was Bronwyn. "I have an hour," she said. "Tell me four things and I'll go collect them."

She had remembered what I had written back in October.

She scooped up raspberries and rolls, chocolate milk and eggs. She guarded the carts while I rushed back for something I had forgotten. We talked about what to serve on the menu for the weekend and what to serve on Remembrance Day. We compared prices.

And as we marched our laden carts toward the checkout, I couldn't help but smile at how easy it was this Friday, because the job was shared; I was on a team.

She bought me the flowers that graced the TH this weekend too, and gave me the beautiful green scarf to brighten up my fall coat.

What a gift it is to know that what you say and how you feel are taken seriously! Dad said not long ago that it's a sad thing to be forsaken; but it's tremendously sad to be forgotten on top of it all. 

I was remembered on Friday. And that simple gesture, that short hour, made me walk out of Costco with my head erect and my mind re-engaged and my heart warmed.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Happy Birthday, Allan!

To the outside world we all grow old. But not to brothers and sisters. We know each other as we always were. We know each other's hearts. We share private family jokes. We remember family feuds and secrets, family griefs and joys. We live outside the touch of time. ~Clara Ortega

Wednesday, November 3, 2010

Sixty Years

They are not as spry as they would like; they get tired more easily and can't drive for long distances. But in the Tuesday morning meeting at the Manor, Wes and Leona told us that today is their 60th wedding anniversary.

"I told [my pastor] that I was going to be married," Wes recounted. "He asked me who the young lady was. I said, 'Leona Hickock.' He told me, 'You have a pearl there.'"

Wes paused, looked at Leona, touched her hand and added, "She's still a pearl."

And in our prayer time, these were some of Wes's words, which are a far greater tribute than any poor sentiment I could write about this wonderful couple who love God and love each other so palpably, it's sometimes painful:

Father, I want to thank You for my wife -
these 60 years have gone by quickly
Thank You for the opportunities You've given us -
sorry for the ones we missed ...
There's been some ups and some downs
We thank You, Lord, that
You just met us in them
And we thank You for the day
that You'll meet us
in glory.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Day 31: "The Witch Is In"

What a month it's been! This is the second "Thanksgiving Month" I've been given to observe and rejoice in and as I check my balance sheets on October 31st I see how truly rich I am.

No, my bank account's the same; it's not that. But I am rich in friends and experiences and laughter and comfort.

I have seen how people can pull together for strangers: I've had offers from people I don't know (as well as those I do!) to help me with my grocery shopping; people have committed their old beautiful dresses - and even one wedding dress! - to Destiny Dresses, for me to take when I head up to Athabasca in the new year; my teahouse is clean and my staff is, for the most part, happy ... 

My family has rallied round me, loving me in practical ways and just listening to me when all I needed was someone to listen. My close friends, too ...

I am starting to feel like part of a community and starting to feel hope for the future of our little Trois Lumps ...

I have been blessed beyond belief by the teaching of my Dad, as well as that of pastors Tim and Dave ...

And I am particularly thankful to Cathryn, who took me up on my challenge at the beginning of the month and noted down something she was thankful for each day. Her succinct word or two was so often in keeping with what I was writing, and yet she came independently to what she was thankful for.

For the last two mornings I awoke with this song on my mind. It's one we used to sing at Hebron, going up a key with each verse until we were squeaking the last lines!

I leave it with you, and with some of the pictures of the TH this evening.

THANK YOU to each one of you for joining me on this blog-fest!

Thank You For Every New Good Morning

Thank you for every new good morning
Thank you for every fresh new day
Thank you that I may cast my burden
wholly onto You

Thank you for every friend I have, Lord
Thank you for every one I know
Thank you that I can feel forgiveness
to my greatest foe

Thank you for leisure and employment
Thank you for ev’ry heart-felt joy
Thank you for all that makes me happy
and for melody

Thank you for every shade and sorrow;
Thank you for comfort in your word.
Thank you that I am guided by you
everywhere I go

 Thank you for grace to know your gospel
Thank you for all your spirit’s power
Thank you for your unfailing love
which reaches far and near

Thank you for free and full salvation
Thank you for grace to hold it fast
Thank you, O Lord, I want to thank you,
that I’m free to thank.