Remembrance Day is quickly approaching and I find myself remembering where I was exactly one year ago.
In Nov, 2014, my husband and I took a once-in-a-lifetime trip to France. We picked the dates of the trip for a variety of reasons, but one of the benefits was that it meant we would be there over November 11th. We were staying in the South of France in Menton, where our oldest daughter was going to school for the year. Part of our plans were to pop up to Paris to visit some old friends, and we timed this for Nov 11 & 12. We were very aware of the significance of where we were going to be on a day that is very important to us. Our friends had Nov 11th off, since it is a holiday in France, so we spent the day touring around some well known and not so well known areas of Paris. We wore our Canadian poppies proudly, and we pleased to be able to stop and watch a Remembrance Day parade go by at one point.
Over the course of the day we talked about what we would do the next day. We could come back to downtown Paris and do some shopping or go on some tours. Since Nov 11th was a holiday we could only wander around and see the sights, but we couldn’t shop. We also talked about going to Vimy Ridge. It would require a lengthy train ride and we were concerned that we wouldn’t get back in time to catch our flight back to Menton. We thought about borrowing our friend’s car. We thought about just staying in Paris. But something kept steering us towards Vimy. We were so close to it and might not have a second chance to visit France. How could we come this far and not pay our respects? Would our daughter be bored and wish she hadn’t come with us?
We looked into renting a car and determined that it would be worth the investment to be in control of our timing. It was just a 2 hour drive from where we were staying, and if we left early enough in the morning we could make it back in time to catch our flight. OK, it was decided we would skip a second day in Paris for a trip to Vimy Ridge.
All I can say is that it was the right decision. What an impact that trip had on all three of us. Even though we missed the official Remembrance Day by 24 hours, there was still a row of wreaths along the one side of the monument…one of which was from Canada! Visitors were taking their poppies off their jackets and placing it along one of the wreaths. There were groups of school children on tours, and we happened upon one at the same time as they were listening to the last post and having a moment of silence. We also had a tour of the battlefield where Canadians played a significant role, and we visited the cemeteries where there is row upon row of white crosses dedicated to the men and women who lost their lives. Apart from the seriousness of where we were, we were struck by how immaculate the grounds were. These sites are highly respected and looked after like nothing I’ve ever seen. We felt privileged to be there.
We’re so glad we made the effort to pay our respects to all the soldiers who made the ultimate sacrifice. This year, on Nov 11th, we will take part in our local ceremony with a stronger appreciation for why we’re there. The least we can do is pass the message on to the younger generation and take a few moments, at 11:00, to remember.