For this lifelong, loyal Canadian, Remembrance Day only intensifies patriotic emotions
As I watch the final rays of a golden Prairie sunset glistening on the hoarfrost of the trees, I am moved to tears at the breathtaking splendour of this beautiful piece of Canada. I know that somewhere else in this land someone is in awe at the sight before them. From the West Coast to the East Coast, it is a collage of beauty.
I am a third-generation Canadian and to say that I love this country would be an understatement.
“Our home and native land”
It is not just the beauty of Canada alone, however; it is the core of the country that I love as well. Canada’s heart and soul has its roots in the generations gone before us and it leaves in my being a deep, intense feeling of gratitude for those who forged their way in a new country.
I think of my English grandmother and greatgrandmother who arrived in northern Ontario in 1910 in 40°F weather. They were wearing felt slippers and sweaters and were met by my great-grandfather, who was to die soon after, leaving them destitute and enduring unbelievable hardships.
They remained in this country, which was so vast and different from the England they had left. My grandmother would in time marry my grandfather, a Canadian, and bring a generation of hard-working, patriotic, honest people into the world. Grandfather served in the First World War and came home a changed man who struggled the rest of his years. But even as he struggled, he served again as a reservist during the Second World War.
My heart beats with a fierce patriotism every Remembrance Day and my emotions well up, leaving
my voice trembling during the national anthem at our local Remembrance Day service. I think of the horrors that my grandfather endured in the First World War as I watch with pride while my son and daughter lay a wreath in his memory.
I think of my uncles who served in the Second World War and of another who did not return and never met his third son. He lies in a cemetery in Ortona, Italy. I have the telegram that my mother received from her sister, which simply read, “Jimmy killed in action.” He was one of many Canadians who fought and died for this country I love. “True patriot love in all thy sons command” My husband’s grandparents left a country of strife and pending war to bring their family to Canada. They sailed from Bremen, Germany, and were processed through Ellis Island. They lived for a time in the United States, finding their way to Saskatchewan and then Alberta, where they made their permanent home. They, too, were strong, hardworking honest people who brought to our country a belief in God and hard work and then passed their strengths on to their children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren. They had to learn a new language and a new culture but their work ethic is found in the land that is still farmed by the family.
A lone windmill still marks the spot where they began their Canadian dynasty. Canada suffered the trials of the 1930s, when severe drought and years of poverty left its mark and changed lives.
In time, my grandparents, who had come west in the good years, lost their farm. That sorrow and pain was never to be forgotten by their children who would, on any family occasion, make a pilgrimage back to “the home place” to reminisce about the good times on the farm.
The one son who had always wanted to farm had to leave when the “For Sale” sign by the bankruptcy firm went up on the gatepost. He packed a few belongings in a small carpetbag and caught a boxcar from a nearby town, riding the rails with hundreds of other men heading east to the gold mine.
He endured dangerous men who would kill for money, the fierceness of the railway police, and the shame of standing in soup lines for food to find a job and forge ahead in a new life. And though it was not to be, he never forgot his love for the land. That man was my father.
Perhaps the words of Emily Carr best express my feelings: “It is wonderful to feel the grandness of Canada in the raw, not because she is Canada, but because she’s something sublime that you were born into, some great rugged power that you are a part of.” ■