The Poppy, Flander’s Fields, Last Post, and CBC live from Ottawa.
These are the things I remember being a part of November 11 in the Duff home when I was growing up.
It was a given that we would all gather, in later years, in front of the television to be a part of the Remembrance Day service offered to Canadians. It was understood that this was the day that our Dad would shed a few tears… an occasion that was very sombre and rare. Dad was always laughing and cracking jokes – but not on this day. On this day, we would not expect him to be telling jokes. On this day, we would ask him about his friends. He would tell us stories about the time he spent patrolling the Northumberland Straits, his time on Koggala Beach, India, Burma, and mostly, about his time in the air in his beloved Catalina.
Today also became know to my brother and I as the day when Dad not only said good-bye to his friends he had lost during World War II, but also the day he said good-bye to his Paula, our mother. It was this day – three years ago – when he said good-bye to Mom. I can still hear his loving words to her even today. He sat beside her in his wheel-chair in the dimly lit room. He held her hand. He calmed her and reassured her that it was okay for her to go. He reassured her that she would be okay. He affirmed his love for her and their wonderful life together. His voice was calm, comforting, and loving. I am not really sure she heard him – she was unconscious at that point – but I am confident that she would never have left him if she had not been convinced he would be okay. And Dad knew that. He let her go. He wished her well on her journey and that one day, God willing, they would meet again. She passed away the next morning — he had said his good-bye.
Dad was a survivor. What was it that kept him going? What keeps anyone going through so much loss? To this day, I still believe it was Dad’s philosophy that one must count his/her blessings. Maybe that was a philosophy taught to him through the depression, when his family had nothing but what they produced on their own farm? Dad always claimed he was well off compared to some others who didn’t have food, let alone clothing. Maybe it was the time he spent among those who lost so much to war? Dad claimed he was well off compared to the families who lost their sons and daughters, houses, freedoms to war. He survived cancer, a stroke, and multiple other health challenges.
Today, a former student of mine sent me a photo of a Remembrance Day program she had taken a couple of years ago when Mom and Dad were able to attend. What a wonderful surprise to see them in this photo – it was a new photo to me and so it was almost like we had been together one more time – sharing Remembrances. My student and her colleagues were standing behind my Mom and Dad who were seated in the front row. They were all happy – it was exactly where Mom and Dad thrived – among young people who offered them so much appreciation. I remember this day well. I am so blessed to have others remember it also.
Two more students of mine today also remembered my parents to me. “It was so nice for your Dad to be with us on Remembrance Day, Stacey”.
Although it was a tough day today – I must remember the lessons Dad taught me – to count my blessings. I count my country and the peaceful state we exist in as one of my blessings – I count my health, my family, my ability to read among the many other blessings I have. I also consider myself to be blessed to have had such great role models to allow me to see the world with gratitude.
Today – I thank the many people who have journeyed with my family and I to the place we are at today. Thanks to the care-givers who helped Dad until, literally, the day he died. Thanks to the friends who stuck by Dad even when he was no longer able to speak. Thanks to family who were by our sides always. Thanks to a country that remembers the sacrifices Dad and so many others made so that we could live a life few others only dream of.
TTFN, Dad. Thinking of you today – and always!