We re­mem­ber with love and spir­i­tu­al­ity

Times Colonist - - Religion - PAUL W. NEW­MAN Paul New­man is a re­tired min­is­ter of The United Church of Canada.

In late Au­gust 1945 as an 11year-old boy, I went with our fam­ily one evening into the vil­lage of Iro­quois, On­tario, to see the burn­ing in ef­figy of Ja­panese Gen­eral Tojo. He was rep­re­sented by a stuffed fig­ure dan­gling in flames from the flag pole at the lo­cal fac­tory.

A large crowd of peo­ple gath­ered around. Some were laugh­ing and clap­ping. Oth­ers were bowed in si­lence or qui­etly weep­ing. The war was so very re­cent. My mother was not laugh­ing. She had been born and lived in Ja­pan as a mis­sion­ary’s kid and came to Canada to go to col­lege and then re­turn to Ja­pan as a mis­sion­ary. She had scores of Ja­panese friends whose fate dur­ing the war was un­known, but likely tragic. Her re­mem­ber­ing of them and the Al­lied ca­su­al­ties was a time of sor­row and hope.

Twenty years later, a few parish­ioners were gath­ered at the mod­est War Memo­rial in Moun­tain Grove, On­tario. Stand­ing there was Edna, a faith­ful leader of church and com­mu­nity. She was re­mem­ber­ing her hus­band, who had gone to war weeks af­ter their mar­riage, leav­ing her preg­nant and run­ning a small farm.

He had not re­turned. The time of re­mem­brance was full of sor­row and sym­pa­thy.

Five years later, my wife and I were walk­ing among the rows and rows of iden­ti­cal head­stones in the ceme­tery at Repulse Bay in Hong Kong. We thought of the dis­as­trous fall of the colony when the in­vad­ing forces over­whelmed the valiant lo­cal forces, in­clud­ing the Win­nipeg Ri­fles.

Our re­mem­ber­ing then was a mix­ture of hor­ror and some anger as well as grief for the fallen and their un­known loved ones.

Now, 47 years later, a large crowd of lo­cal peo­ple of all ages gath­ers at the Sooke War Memo­rial. Wreaths are laid. The com­mu­nity choir sings a hymn. The chap­lain says a brief prayer.

A bu­gler plays the Last Post and Reveille and then a piper plays Flow­ers of the For­est. No­body is laugh­ing or clap­ping. The at­mos­phere is rev­er­ent and quiet.

You re­al­ize there is sor­row and sad­ness in the peo­ple. And there is a feel­ing of won­der at the mag­ni­tude of the losses of life. The wars seem so dis­tant in time, al­most mys­te­ri­ous.

We all know and de­plore cur­rent wars with their destruc­tion and dis­place­ment of or­di­nary peo­ple. We have mixed feel­ings of hor­ror and re­lief that th­ese wars are not close to our home­land.

Re­mem­ber­ing is an ac­tiv­ity of spirit. The sor­row and the hor­ror are forms of love. Even anger at the losses and destruc­tion is a con­se­quence of love. So are the feel­ings of cel­e­bra­tion and joy for the end­ing of con­flicts.

The wide­spread par­tic­i­pa­tion in re­mem­brance is cause for hope, that the hu­man race will some­day let love and com­pas­sion be what de­ter­mines the af­fairs of na­tions and in­di­vid­u­als. Mean­while, we re­mem­ber with love.

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