In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.
– By John McCrae
Today, as custom, I was at my town’s cenotaph for the Remembrance Day ceremonies – the day we commemorate our fallen soldiers, having fought and died for our freedom. The armistice that finally ended the fighting on the Western Front was signed on November 11th 1918, on the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. I often think what it would have been like to live through that war, sending your father, brothers, husband, sweetheart, off to a land unknown to fight and be exposed to the brutality of gunfire, explosions, blood, infectious wounds, knowing you will quite possibly never see them again in this life. The beginning of an even harder life would have been when your worst fear was made true and you received a death notification. At least while they were at war you could live on hope and prayer, living each day for the purpose of making it through until he/they came home to you. But at the arrival of that dreaded letter, everything ends. Your world would have gone black, empty of all hope. Of course hope is in Our Lord, and I like to think I would have run to Him if I’d been in those women’s places, as I’m sure many of them did. The reality is still that you would live the rest of the war out, knowing your loved one wouldn’t be coming home at the end of it. How much more painful and bleak would the war have then become. The men fought, suffered, and died for love of country and family. And although their womenfolk’s suffering was less tangible, it was every bit as heart-wrenching as I can imagine, and more, I’m sure.
When I think of the type of suffering they went through, it’s a reflection of the natural role of man and woman:
The men suffered very physical pain, being exposed to all sorts of elements, and exerting themselves beyond what they thought they were capable of. Naturally they also suffered pains of the heart – those they loved and left behind, only to most likely die a horrid death, never to see those loved ones again in this life. They gave their lives for what they believed to be good and true.
The women’s suffering was more of the heart. She was, of course, physically taxed because of the extra work that came with a war. But the long lasting suffering was that of her heart. It was broken, possibly again and again, and yet she continued for the sake of her loved one overseas whose safety she had no way of controlling, and for the existing loved ones at home who needed her strength.
Her core suffering and pain was that of the heart – as women are called to love, nurture and tend to their loved ones. His core suffering and pain was that of the body – as men are called to protect and provide for their loved ones.
How very much I respect the women who stayed home to care for the needs of their families while their men fought against the world blowing itself to pieces. I should think, had I been alive during the time, I would have quickly joined the CAMC (Canadian Army Medical Corps), as most of them were single woman at my current twenty-something age with fathers and/or brothers at the front. I’m lead to believe that I would have been an anxious wreck if I was to attempt calmly carrying on in hope and prayer. In my imaginings, working at the front and doing all I could to help save lives, and if not, to sit and comfort dying men would be the only way I could handle such situations. Perhaps it all sounds rather tragically romantic, but I’m afraid it wouldn’t have been. The brutal reality of it would have been constantly on my mind.
The day may come when, again, we must brazen ourselves for war. Our men may have to leave. We may have to call on Our Lady’s strength to aid us in unbelievably cruel times. We must be ready for such times, ready to fight and die for our faith as the martyrs did, and as many of our fallen soldiers have done.
” At the going down of the sun, and in the morning, we will remember them.”