Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Poppies and lost dreams

Remembrance Day, poppies and national anthems. It's always been a Big Deal in my family and in my village growing up. So many men who went to World War II, not so many for the Vietnam nor for the current war.

It was always a day of somber and sadness, remembering those whose lives were lost. It was never about supporting a war (at least from my perspective), nor was it about glorifying such a horrific concept... war. There were too many stories of sadness, grief, lost hopes and dreams. All those young men believing it was exciting and "good" being confronted with the reality of loss and suffering.

My grandpere passed away two years ago after a long period of illness. Remembrance Day has always been about him.

He, with many village fishermen, left for war at the young age of 17 years old. Grand-mere refused to accept his proposal of marriage pre-leaving as she said in her abrupt way: "I didn't want to be married to someone missing a limb... so I waited." (you can see how perhaps they weren't the best match).

Instead of glory and heroism, Grandpere found three years in the front lines as a foot soldier. Upon his return he obviously battled with the trauma that haunted him, medicating with alcohol until half his stomach was removed and he suffered a stroke. It wasn't until he was much older and losing control of his emotions that we heard much of his story. Before then, every Remembrance day he'd take out his suit with all his metals and join those who were left to honour those who had passed. Tears streaming down his face, but without much of a word being spoken.

The chances of living through the war as a foot soldier were pretty dim. Front lines, in the trenches, most of those he served with died. He once told a story of how during long months they slept and waited in muddy trenches. With no place to relieve themselves other than where they lay their heads, his helmet became his toilet and his food bowl. He always said that it wasn't good for much else.

Grandmere usually told most of the few stories as Grandpere was too emotional. She'd talk about how he'd be looking up at the stars at night and wonder if he'd ever see his friends and family again. How he had never felt so alone. All the while, Grandpere sat and silently shook as tears rolled down his cheeks and he looked away, for some reason embarrassed.

The most poignant (and last) story I heard was about how at one time he was stuck in a hole of some sort with German soldiers all around. Certain he was about to be found and killed he readied himself. A German soldier stopped at the foot of the hole and they stared at each other. He said they both saw how they were the same: boys who were being forced to kill each other, human beings with families and loved ones killing each other.

Without a word the German soldier left, obviously reporting that he had seen nothing as no one else came looking. Because of that German soldier, my Grandpere lived.

That last story is what war will always be for me.

Lest We Forget.

In loving memory of Grandpere Albert d'Eon

article copyright by EcoYogini at


  1. *hug* We read about the trenches at school. I am not sure it would be possible to understand what it was like to live there. They were dreadful places.

  2. I know how you feel.

    Much Love,

  3. Blessings on your Grandpere and all the other brave people we send to fight our battles. My grandfather doesn't talk much about it either.

    I don't know how returning Canadian vets are treated, but we have a pretty poor record down here (I mean healthcare, PTSD, re-deploying soldiers with brain injuries, suicide rates, etc.). So many damaged lives and so little treatment. I pray that one day we find a way to compassionately support them. It's the least we owe them.

  4. your grandfather's story gives such hope: in the face of such atrocity, another human, an enemy, showed great compassion and courage. thanks for sharing that. it's evidence for hope and peace.

  5. What an honor to your grandpere to share this. Really beautiful, sad story! I can't imagine what that must have been like. We are so fortunate.

  6. Thanks for sharing this--it's so easy to be liberal and negate what soldiers have done...just today I was complaining about veterans day and my mother had to remind me that my grandfather was a veteran

  7. That is a very touching story. THank you for sharing


  8. That's a very moving story. Thank you for sharing it.

  9. I came here to ask if I could get a copy of your header [the one with you on the side walk] not only did I find the painting I've been working on for you is "right-on" by seeing your new header...[I've been agonizing over it...silly girl that I am...I should know to trust my instincts better] I also found a story that bears great truth, and the tears fall down my cheeks. Your Grand-Pere suffers with PTSD, as do many of our soldiers. I weep with him, with you, and will remember him, his story for as long as I live. You really should publish this, Lisa. It needs to be read by the world, by families who wonder how to help those they love who've returned from war. Having PTSD myself, I, too, have been touched by this. Thank you for helping shed some much needed light on this subject. I bow to your Grand-Pere, and you.

  10. Thank you so very much everyone for the kind and thoughtful words.

    Grandpere kinda missed the boat on support for PTSD, and although there's much lip service right now with the Canadian Military reporting that they are supporting the returning soldiers... I highly doubt the culture of derision and stigma has changed. :(

    Lille Diane, I am so touched by your beautiful words- really your posts are such inspiration and help so many. I am just a tiny drop :)

  11. This memorial and homage to your grandfather is so vivid and beautiful in its sadness. Thank you for sharing it. I have heard many like it over the years in my work but every one has a sacred specialness about it that is never lost--every soldier is someone's husband, wife, father, mother, family, friend and their stories are often the epitome of humanity in an inhumane life experience.

    Teresa at myembodiment.


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