My grandfather, George Blaisdell Honey, returned from the First World War. He was injured but he returned. His brother, Samuel Lewis Honey, did not. Uncle Lew, as he was known by the family, joined more than 60,000 other Canadians killed on the battlefields of Europe. For his actions he was awarded a Victoria Cross – posthumously. Though my grandfather, who was younger, returned home from the war, married, had four children and a successful law career, he spent his lifetime not talking about the War. The stories he did hesitantly tell were of camaraderie and adventure, never the stories of trench warfare or unmitigated fear. Like so many other soldiers, even his diaries at the time never revealed the horror he lived through.
I never knew my Grandpa Honey. He died before my eldest sister was born. But I wish I had known him.
I try not to celebrate or romanticize war. I consider myself a pretty staunch pacifist. But today, on Remembrance Day, I feel a strict duty to remember.
Today I’m pausing to remember the deaths of family members I never met. I’m pausing to remember the nearly 620,000 men who enlisted in the Canadian Expeditionary Forces – their families and loved ones who sent them across an ocean to the killing fields of Europe, the children who never met their fathers, and the broken men who returned home never quite the same. I’m pausing to remember the more than 16 million people who lost their lives across the globe because imperialism and militarism and nationalism collided in a conflict beyond the scope of imagination at the time.
We live in the aftermath. We’ve seen the land beyond the scope of imagination. And that’s why we pause to remember.