You can be forgiven for not realizing a simple truth on Remembrance Day — and you can be forgiven because the evidence in front of your eyes will simply deceive you.
They’ll deceive you, because many of the faces you’ll see are old.
When you see the older men and women standing at attention, waiting to place wreaths for their comrades-at-arms, it’s hard to realize how awfully painfully young they would have been when we asked them to go to war.
Many were barely in their 20s. Others were substantially younger.
They were young and strong and filled with idealism. We asked them to fight our nation’s battles, and they did.
Often, they did so before they had even begun to live their lives. Often, they did so before they had any clear idea of what those lives might be.
It’s probably one of the reasons that it’s so hard to even imagine the depth of sacrifice we have asked and are still asking of Canadian soldiers — that they gave up not only their lives, but the lives they might have had, to protect a democracy that they might never have a chance to participate in.
Try and think for a moment just how much of their lives were sacrificed — there are those who made the ultimate sacrifice, and there are those whose sacrifice has stretched for whole lifetimes.
The men and women you see at the cenotaph have lived their lives with what they saw and did and experienced — theirs were changed lives, and often, damaged ones.
Now, try an interesting experiment.
Look at your own life: look back to when you were the age of any graduating student in Grade 12. Remember that high school dance, that first kiss, any number of high school memories. And then catalogue just a few of the things that have happened in your life since then. The older you are, the more you will have to remember. The more you will have to lose.
Marriages. Children being born. Those same children graduating from high school or university. Loves lost, loves found, careers and laughter and life. Vacations and small wonders, holidays and quiet special moments.
And now imagine either that your life had ended right there, somewhere around your 19th or 20th birthday, or that, at that same age, your entire life had changed in such a way that all of the days that followed carried the distinct and often poisonous taint of war.
Imagine everything that you might have lost.
Imagine everything that they did lose.
You might not be able to remember everyone who suffered loss. But you might, tomorrow around 11:11, take a few moments of time to put on someone else’s shoes and imagine all of the treasures you could just as easily have lost.
Maybe then, a short, sincere, honest moment of thanks will be in order.