I just got home from attending a Remembrance Day ceremony. I usually try to get out to one if it’s at all possible. Quite often I attend the assembly at my children’s school but this year the weather was so gorgeous I wanted to be outside. I chose to avoid the War Memorial in downtown Ottawa. I knew that it would be very crowded this year and there would be all sorts of hype surrounding it. Although I can understand why people want to remember en mass – I believe it makes them feel connected – my own preference is something more subdued. I had thought about going to the Canadian War Museum, but I figured it, too, would be insanely busy. So instead of braving the crowds, I went to the Beechwood Cemetery where the National Military Cemetery is located.
I couldn’t have made a better choice. The cemetery, although busy, was not at all crowded. In fact, even with all of the military personnel and those who came for the ceremony, the enormous cemetery managed to remain beautifully peaceful. Before the ceremony I wandered the part of the cemetery where those who fought in the two World Wars were buried. Surprisingly it was relatively empty of visitors. Most people went directly to the area where the ceremony was being held; the burial place of anyone who has served in the Canadian Armed Forces. I was happy, though, to be there alone with my thoughts and the beauty of the day. I took photos and read the inscriptions on many of the headstones. I thought about the two world wars and the many, many young people who enlisted and never came back home to be able to enjoy Canada as it is today.
The ceremony, itself, was low key but respectful. There were veterans there who were applauded upon arrival. All of the required musical pieces were played and sung. Two minutes of silence was bookended by artillery fire.There were prayers and dedications, the laying of the wreathes, and the reading of In Flanders Fields. Toward the end of the ceremony two military jets (CF-18’s?) flew over adding a bit of excitement to an otherwise reserved affair. What always amazes me is the hush that falls over such a large number of people. All you could hear during the two minutes of silence were birds singing, leaves and flags fluttering in the breeze, and the low hum of traffic beyond the cemetery boundaries. It really was, to me, the perfect Remembrance Day ceremony.