Remembrance Day

The red and green and tinsel greed and glitter of the next big holiday are now appearing, without bothering to wait for the pumpkins and skeletons to be put away – and without pausing to allow some space for Remembrance Day.

Some people referred to the year 2020 as “The Pause,” and I think it did us some good to pause for a while. Remembrance Day deserves its own pause, and not just for the two minutes of silence.

Last year at this time, I wrote a post about how different the observances were because of Covid. This year, many of us are participating in more activities, but I don’t expect there will be marches or large crowds milling around at public gatherings on November 11th. Still, a lot of people are wearing poppies and will participate in the two minutes of silence.

I’m glad. I believe it’s important for us all to pay attention to the day and take some time to reflect and remember. I’m old enough that I still think of those two world wars in which several members of my family served and of the horrors they endured.

According to my weekend newspaper, this year is the hundredth anniversary of the poppy being a symbol for Remembrance Day. The poppy makes me think of how, in elementary school, we were made to memorize and recite On Flanders Fields. I remember feeling very moved by the poem and by the image of poppies blowing between the crosses while the larks “still bravely singing“. I was inspired by the lines “To you from failing hands we throw the torch”. Surely it was a call to action, I thought, although I had no idea what action I might take.

Years later, I was saddened to learn that Dr. John McCrae, the author of In Flanders Field, died of overwork and disease during the war. I find myself now, almost a century later, thinking of the many thousands of courageous health care workers who have died around the world since the start of the pandemic. In Canada, almost 95,000 health care workers have been infected with Covid 19 and 43 have died as a result. Yet our health professionals continue bravely to risk their lives to care for the sick, many of whom are people who have chosen not to get vaccinated. The call to action now must be for all of us to do everything we can to curb the transmission of the virus, taking all the precautions we can and trying to encourage those around us to do the same.

When I think of the word “remembrance,” I always think of re-membering – putting things back together. There’ll be a lot to for us put back together when the Covid crisis lessens and we move on to what people are calling “the new abnormal.”  One of the most difficult challengers will be in mending the rifts that have been created between vaxxers and anti-vaxxers.

It won’t be easy. I’m frustrated by what seems to me astonishing egotism on the part of people who think they know more than the vast majority of scientists and health professionals world-wide, but I’m trying to feel compassion for them. I’m going to try to listen to the fears and anxieties they have. I know that the information sources they trust are not reliable and that they are victims of the conspiracy theories that spread so easily through social media. They won’t be ready to change their minds, but we’ll need to find ways of talking through the conflicts and finding some common ground.

There’s a lot of sadness in the world just now. I feel there’s a deep and widespread collective grief about the pandemic, climate change, violence, prejudice and huge inequities. Maybe talking about those things could be a starting point for some important conversations. Many therapists have written about the value of speaking about and sharing thoughts about our experiences with grief and loss.

I’m very honored to be part of a national virtual conference about grief at which many professionals will bring varied perspectives and expertise to the discussion. You can read about it and, if you’re interested, register online for sessions between November 19th to 21st at https://lumarasociety.org/kaleidoscope2021/

We all experience loss at various times throughout our lives. It helps to talk about it. It helps to connect us with each other. It might help us open up our minds and our hearts. Let’s hope so.

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