It is that time of year again where we give thanks for all that we have, not because it is Thanksgiving, but because we have the freedom to celebrate Thanksgiving and all our other Canadian holidays. Without those who fought on the front lines and behind the scenes in the two big World Wars and all the ones in between and since, Canada would be a very different place. I am honoured to be able to spend a day remembering them.
My grandfathers were on the front lines, in the trenches and I can’t imagine what they saw or heard or for that matter had to do to survive. The days of rain at Passchendaele, where my mom’s dad was sopping wet and watching Canadians drop all around him or my dad’s dad who was left for dead for three days on the hills of Vimy Ridge. Both my grandfathers came home, but were never the same. Grandpa Cotton had what they would now call Postraumatic Stress Disorder. He was a man filled with anger when he returned. My Grampa Thomas had damaged lungs from being gassed and coughed for the rest of his life.
My grandmothers were heroes too. My one grandmother raised six children and ran the family farm in Saskatchewan while her husband was away and then stayed married to him and endured a man she did not know until his death. My other grandmother had three children. She too stayed on the farm and made her way enduring rations and loss. The worry must have ate at my grandmothers daily. Would their husbands ever come home?
I am proud of my heritage and my brave ancestors. Recently, my son asked me to come to his school and talk about our family’s Coat of Arms. I hadn’t really thought about it too much before that day. It had hung in our family home for most of my life. I asked my mom to dig out the accompanying historical information on our family name and she did. I read about how coat of arms were given out for bravery to vikings and warriors long ago. Apparently, our family had been feisty for a long time.
As I talked about our family to Matt’s class I saw the pride on his face and it was hard not to choke up a bit. Determined not to embarrass my ten year old in front of his whole class, I wrapped up my short presentation and left. It is times like those that I realize how important history is. Whether or not we admit it, it does define us in one way or another. It is a part of us. It is why we are free.
Sacrifices have been made and are still being made everyday. Every year I interview veterans for Remembrance Day and every year I am reminded of how blessed Canadians are. We had strong spirited men and women behind and before the front lines doing whatever they could to save Canada and other countries from a life of oppression and cruelty. These people are our Canada through and through.