This year’s Remembrance Day will, indeed, be one I will remember for a long time.
It was a heavily emotional day from beginning to end for three different, but thematically similar reasons.
First, as a father, I always find the stories that accompany Remembrance Day ceremonies as deeply moving.
The men and women who serve in the military, a long way from family, make a personal sacrifice that most of us only imagine in theory.
To realize that some of them sacrifice their lives to protect our freedoms, or perhaps even the freedoms of complete strangers thousands of kilometres away from home, sets off emotions of separation anxiety that must tear at the hearts of parents with sons or daughters in the service.
On Remembrance Day, we share both the pride and the pain that comes with such service to their country.
Second, as a son, I travelled several thousand kilometres on the weekend to pack up and take my mother to a retirement home, delivering her on Remembrance Day.
As I’ve mentioned previously, this is her choice and I respect it, but I was paralyzed with guilt and anxiety as I left her.
In a few hours I would be on a plane and thousands of kilometres away from her again.
And while she would be well cared for and somewhat worry-free, she would have to go through a major transition essentially alone.
Third, upon my return, I drove from the airport to a hospital to visit a dear friend who recently suffered a stroke.
While I was delighted to see his general physical condition (he has partial paralysis on one side, but is regaining some movement after only three weeks of recovery), I was saddened to realize that with huge gaps in his memory and processing functions, he did not seem to remember me or anything of our past together.
Our friendship has been a steady stream of weekly conversations or e-mails for 26 years and I consider him one of my most significant mentors.
The common theme across all three elements of my Remembrance Day experiences was the concept of unexpected separation.
We are, by nature, social beings. We thrive on strong family bonds and trusting, loyal friendships. And we ache, deeply and profoundly, when those bonds are broken.
As I lay in bed at the end of Remembrance Day, I recalled my father’s comment one day that it wasn’t his own illness that bothered him so much as it was the loss of his friends and family over time. In fact, although he enjoyed what time he could have with his own children and grandchildren, as a man of faith he was looking forward to seeing his own friends and family at some point.
For the elderly, maintaining a positive attitude and a desire to be well is challenged by the emotional stress of separation that comes with the loss of social and family connections.
I could certainly relate to that feeling on Remembrance Day.