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Posts Tagged ‘Legion’

Today is the 11th of November. It’s Remembrance Day. I woke up this morning with bright sun shining off the snow that fell yesterday, and I felt numb. That’s been a common sensation lately. There’s part of me that wants to rage and weep, to cry and scream, to shout and curse, and yet I’m unable to do any of those things.

I got dressed very warm to go to the Cemetery Cenotaph today. Usually I’m in full Legion Uniform with a black wool funeral cope, a black beret and black gloves. Today I dressed in long underwear, a pair of black tights, a long sleeved white top, cassock and surplice, two pairs of socks, funeral cope, beret and gloves. Poppy and mask.

My friend and neighbour drove me to the Cemetery and we arrived to see a swath of snow removed to make a walk-way for those who would be laying wreaths. The Communications person for the local Legion branch was there with her iPad and iPhone ready to record and broadcast the service. A reporter from our weekly paper was also there.

I chatted with the lady who was giving a speech this year. She does every year and she is truly gifted in her ability to write. We saw flashing lights from the corner of our eyes and the motorcade had begun. Firefighters in the first two vehicles, then about a dozen vehicles, with the RCMP bringing up the rear, also with lights flashing. It was a mesmerizing sight.

People exited their vehicles, everyone was masked, most in uniforms of various descriptions. A veteran from each branch of the service stood at the head or foot of a soldier’s grave. Once we were all in place, our soloist began with O Canada, his baritone voice clear and rich. He sang our national anthem the way I have become accustomed, half in English and half in French. There was a moment of silence then the bugle recording sounded the last post. We observed two minutes of silence, a recording of a piper played a lament, then reveille was sounded.

In the distance the Church bell rung, indicating it was 11:00 a.m. We began a little early, but I don’t think anyone noticed. I heard my name called and I went to the podium and read from Micah 4.1-5 and a prayer I wrote yesterday. Then I put my mask back on and walked back to where I had been standing.

Jennifer read her speech and it was awesome. She had researched some of the soldiers buried in the veteran’s section of the cemetery. She reflected on what their funerals would have resembled, with a horse-drawn hearse. She spoke of the brave, the survivors, those who returned injured and broken. She named PTSD and the respect all of our soldiers deserve, from yesterday, today and into tomorrow.

Then it was time for the wreaths to be laid. As the names were being read out a flock of birds began to sing and fly. I don’t know what kind of birds they were, but they were beautiful framed against the grey sky. It was overcast so we couldn’t see the Three Sisters (mountains) but they had been described in Jennifer’s speech and those of us who have lived in this valley for awhile have all seen them.

From where I stood I saw young veterans whose memories of Afghanistan are still fresh. I saw old veterans whose memories of peace keeping and of active service were just beneath the surface of their eyes. There were firefighters, both professional and volunteer. Conservation officers and regional and local personnel. The Silver Cross Mother laid her wreath first and when she removed the poppy from her lapel, kissed it through her mask and pinned it to the wreath, I counted 8 other poppies.

In all about 18 wreaths were laid, and then it was time to sing God Save the Queen and depart. Our soloist, Karl, sang two verses of the song. We sang along with verse one, but he lost us in the second verse. I hummed beneath my mask. He turned suddenly when he’d finished the second verse and Jennifer smiled, thanked everyone for coming then Oscar told everyone to return to their cars, and follow one another out of the cemetery. Apparently Karl had forgotten the third verse of God Save the Queen and was upset about that. I told him I didn’t realize there WAS a third verse to God Save the Queen. He head learned it for today.

A couple of veterans came over to say hello as we headed back to our vehicles. We lamented that we couldn’t go to Rocky Mountain Village for the brief service we do each year, but we all understand why. Hopefully next year.

As the wreaths were being laid, I thought back on the days when I was in my 20’s and I’d take the day off work to be in the Colour Party for the Legion, then go back to the branch and bartend for a few hours. None of the men and women I marched with are still alive, as they were in their 60’s and 70’s back then. I’m in my 50’s now.

Jennifer and her husband drove me home and I came in, got out of my formal clothes, pulled on my favourite house socks and did some work. About 3:00 pm I decided my work day was over and I found the movie Passchendaele. I had not watched it before. I’m glad I watched it today.

This was a Remembrance Day unlike any other I’ve experienced. And one I will remember forever.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old.

Age shall not weary them, nor the year’s condemn.

At the going down of the sun, and in the morning,

We will remember them. We WILL remember them.

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The last few weeks have been unbelievably busy.  Emotional roller-coasters as we grow the family of God through the rites of Baptism.  As we vigil with those who are dying.  As we journey with those who struggle in their faith.  As we celebrate with couples who are marrying; all the while engaging on a deep emotional family with the families in the congregation and the community as a whole.

Last week I spent some time each morning at a large hotel in the City, addressing the mass of 700 ladies who were gathered for their provincial convention.  The first day I gave them a blessing and made some comments (some humourous observations) on society as a whole.  On Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday I “warmed up” the room as those in charge were trying to get the last minute preparations in place.  When the leaders were ready to start, I said a prayer, invoking a benediction and went on my way.

Most mornings after the hotel I was back at the Church for study or at the hospital holding vigil with a family.  The struggles in not wanting a loved-one to die and yet knowing they are going to a better place, free of pain is so difficult.  My cell phone has been at my side on vibrate all week and I check it constantly, awaiting it ringing with an urgent call from the family.  That happened on Tuesday and I dropped everything to be there.

Friday afternoon there was a wedding rehearsal with a very anxious bride.  Things that could go wrong were going wrong, so I took her for a walk and helped her put things back in perspective.  By the end of the 15 minute walk, tears were dried, breathing was regular and we were ready to go.  They will have a beautiful day as T and J join together in holy matrimony.

And so today there is a flurry of activity in the Church as the group gathered prepares for Harvest Home and for a Parish Breakfast.  I’ve not yet even looked at the readings for tomorrow, and yet I trust the Holy Spirit will be with me as I stand before the Congregation and preach.  Perhaps it will be a homily about Thanksgiving, or Coming Home?  At this point I really don’t know.

But what I do know is I am wonderfully and fearfully made by a loving and gracious God.

And so are you.

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In Churchland there is an understanding that each priest will be involved in extra-curricular activities in the community or the wider world. For me, it is involvement with the Royal Canadian Legion. I have been a member of the Legion since I was 19. There were a couple of years where I couldn’t afford to renew my membership, but have always held the Legion high in esteem.

When I lived up north I was involved quite heavily – long before I was called to a life of ministry and service. As the average age of members rises and new members aren’t as able to donate time I’m seeing a trend in Legion that I also see in Church: fewer people doing more work.

This weekend the local Legion’s Ladies Auxiliary is hosting 700 women from across the province. Quite a remarkable feat! Just finding accommodations is a huge task. While I have been a member of the Legion for a long time, I have not been as involved with the Ladies Auxiliary. I was approached by the Zone Commander to see if I could help with a cenotaph service today. The challenge with Sunday activities is they almost always happen in the morning and I’m generally in service until noon.

The time of the parade was moved to enable me to participate. It will be a quick change from Church to cenotaph but I am confident I can do it.

For the most part I am able to juggle the demands placed on my time, and generally, there is not much that is demanded of me outside of the occasional prayer service or Legion funeral. Being asked to be present at Chaplain was a great honour, and while I will be completely shattered by the time the parade is over, it will be a very good shattered. I will sleep well tonight!

I am humbled to be asked to participate in a provincial convention. I know, firsthand, how much work goes into these events. The woman who is in charge of the entire convention has a cognitive impairment – she was diagnosed just after she accepted the task. She keeps a memory book that she carries around everywhere. She has notes and sticky notes on everything – and she is one of the most organised women I have ever met.

It is supposed to rain this afternoon – but I can’t see a bit of rain dampening the spirit of the Ladies who will gather. The Silver Cross mother from the City will be laying one of two wreaths at the Cenotaph and the parade is supposed to have a police escort. For about an hour this afternoon, the City will have 700+ women marching downtown. It will be a remarkable sight, and something I am looking forward to.

I have also been asked to provide the benediction and blessing for the start of business for Monday, Tuesday and Wednesday. Also something I am humbled to be able to do.

Quite often in Churchland we get so caught up in our own little world that we forget out other means of service. Being asked by the Ladies Auxiliary is a great honour and I am delighted to be able to do it.

A little rain? Never stopped 700+ women before, it’s not likely to stop us this afternoon!

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