….and in the setting of the sun we shall remember them…
I’ve stood beside those bunkers and thought long and hard about his life, the circumstances of his surgical decisions and the despair he wrote about. I’ve seen trauma but not on the scale he dealt with day in and day out. What he and other medical personnel faced is almost unimaginable (except that now the world seems at war again but that is another post). A concrete bunker, poor lighting, not enough medications for pain, too many patients, not enough time and over all of that the constant barrage of shelling.
There are countless veterans who can not speak of their experiences. There are few serving who can put pen to paper and pour out their heart while in the middle of it. John McRae did just that. He buried his friend in the evening and during the next day’s lull in action he penned the poem. His eyes strayed to the cemetery and the wind did indeed blow the poppies around. How did he manage to go on day after day? Almost year after year. He died of pneumonia.
Others who lived it wrote far better than I so I will leave you with John McCrae’s full poem as well The “Ode of Remembrance” taken from Laurence Binyon’s poem, “For the Fallen”.
‘In Flanders Fields’
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.
For the Fallen
They went with songs to the battle, they were young
Straight of limb, true of eye, steady and aglow.
They were staunch to the end against odds uncounted,
They fell with their faces to the foe.
They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
We will remember them.
They mingle not with their laughing comrades again;
They sit no more at familiar tables of home;
They have no lot in our labour of the day-time;
They sleep beyond England’s foam