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Posts Tagged ‘remembrance’

I was born in the year of Canada’s Centennial…1967. I’m a first generation Canadian born of English parents. I love the country in which I live and I am unabashedly proud to be Canadian as we celebrate the Sesquicentennial of this majestic country.

However…there is a darker side to this place I have called home all my life and the place that my parents chose as their home and to where they chose citizenship.

Canada is 150 years old…Turtle Island is thousands of years old…likely as old as all Creation. And while I think it’s wonderful to see red and white festooning communities and flags going up all over the place…special red and white tulips bred for our Sesquicentennial, we must remember the damamge that our citizens, settlers, all of them, have inflicted on our First Nations peoples.

I am honoured to live on the land of the Ktunaha in Southeastern British Columbia. There is a rich heritage of Indigenous history that surrounds our community…including an ancient curse that was finally lifted about 40 years ago…

Canadians built this country on the backs of those who were here before us…generations and generations before us…and we didn’t do it fairly, or appropriately. And yes, for much of that history we should be ashamed. The Church rounded up Indigenous children in conjunction with the federal government to “civilize” them by taking away their Indigenous names, culture, language, songs and dances. We committed cultural genocide. This was done in the name of God…

It’s a dark part of our history and there are other dark parts of our history…Interment camps in this region that began prior to and ended long after the First World War. The list goes on…

I’m not saying that we should celebrate 150 years of Confederation…I’m not saying that Canada isn’t the best country in the world, because I truly believe that. I believe that now, more than ever, because we are working to make amends with our brothers and sisters in the Indigenous community. We are learning from and working alongside to preserve First Nations languages that are in danger of extinction. Same with dances and songs, of traditional dress and food. We’re making amends, we’re beginning to understand that we weren’t here first…that we are guests on this land.

Last Sunday we recognized National Aboriginal Day of Prayer and it was a very powerful service where we prayed in the four directions, giving thanks to the sacred medicines of tobacco, cedar, sage and sweetgrass. We prayed with the four colours of yellow, red, black and white in the directions of East, South, West and North. We heard of the Creation of Turtle Island from the Great Creator and how those stories resonate so strongly with us even today.

This Sunday we will recognize 150 years of Confederation. We will sing God Save the Queen as well as O Canada and we will hear of how God is working through us as Canadians. We have every right to recognize our heritage as Canadians…but not on the strength of another culture and community. We have the right to wave our flag proudly, remembering on whose land we stand.

I have wrestled with how to celebrate the Sesquicentennial of Canada…similarly I have wrestled with how to celebrate my half-century birthday later in the year. This year I am presiding a memorial service and rose planting for the mother of a friend who died a month or so ago. I won’t be taking in fireworks because I don’t really like fireworks. But I will wander around the community, in an I Love Canada t-shirt and wave my national flag.

But I will also give thanks to the First Nations who were here first and who continue to bless the land on which I live. And so, I say O Canada…Migweech.

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TDoR

On the 20th of November, many major cities in North America and the World, recognize Trans*Day of Remembrance. It’s not a celebration. It’s a somber and solemn occasion when the Trans* Community and their Allies gather to remember those men and women who were killed because of their choice to identify as their true self.

My friend J came to share her story with us last Sunday and while her story, at times, was difficult to hear, it was necessary for her to share it. She spoke eloquently of her knowing she was not male, although she was assigned male at birth. She shared her journey of “coming out” to her family and friends. Some reactions were better than expected; some were worse. Through it all she retained her sense of self and her affection for her creator.

Her son A came with her to Church and there were a few of her friends from the Trans* Community who came to provide moral support. There were a couple of members in the congregation who were uncomfortable and unhappy at what J was sharing with us. One member of the Congregation refused to share the Peace with her, while another nearly knocked her over in their urge to share their joy at her bravery and interest in her story.

Two families with children were present and both sets of parents commented how grateful they were that their children heard what J said. A seven year old thought she was “cool”. High praise indeed!

We are grateful for people like J who have the strength and courage to share their stories. We gather to remember those whose stories may never otherwise be told. Such as an eight year old boy who was certain she was supposed to be a girl. She stopped cutting her hair, began dressing as a girl and asked her family to use a female name for her. Her father was enraged and began to beat her, hoping to show her how it was to be a boy. In his anger and rage he beat her to death. Her father. She was eight.

I have the honour of offering a non-denominational, interfaith prayer at the beginning of the service. And I have been tasked with reading the story of one of the victims of transphobia, one of the many for whom we gather to remember.

It breaks my heart every time I hear of another young Trans* person taking their life rather than endure the taunts and horror that surrounds them, especially early in their transition. Its easy for those of us who are not Trans* to tell them to hang on…to wait…but until we live in their skin, think with their brain, love with their heart, see with their eyes, we will never understand.

What we need is a Revolution of Love. A commitment each of us makes to love without abandon. To love in the face of hatred and fear. To love when it seems there’s nothing useful to say. Because in times of great sorrow there isn’t anything helpful to say. But we can be. Together. In the peaceful quiet. And we can love.

Darkness cannot overcome darkness. Only light can do that. Hatred cannot overcome hatred. Only love can do that.

So when we feel the world has gone insane and there is only violence and hatred, we respond heart-fully, bravely, with love.

It begins with each and every one of us. If we know love we can share love. And in sharing love we overcome the hatred within us. I believe we can, with time, faith, trust and love…change the world.

And on Saturday, when we gather in the City for Trans* Day of Remembrance, our hearts will be filled with grief and pain. And hopefully through words of hope and courage we will begin to replace that grief with hope and that pain with love.

One soul at a time. One heart at a time. One being at a time.

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Today is the 11th of November. In the small town where I live we will gather at 10:50 at the Cenotaph for a service of remembrance and peace. My colleague from the Church across the street is participating for the first time and he will be preaching. A few years ago I wrote some prayers for the service and have adapted them each year. It will be interesting to see the faces in the crowd as my colleague preaches. We traditionally enjoy a vast demographic presence; from the very young to the very old.

Last year, after the Parliament Hill and War Memorial shootings, there was a particularly large crowd. The weather is sunny but cool, with a bit of a wind. The perfect combination for Remembrance Day.

Last Sunday I preached on Remembrance Sunday about peace, remembering and finding a better way to solve conflict. I must admit, I was angry when I was preaching as it doesn’t seem we’ve learned anything in the 4,000 years since the prophet Micah wrote “they shall beat their swords into ploughshares, their sprears into pruning hooks; nation shall not rise again; we will war no more”. Our weaponry is more sophisticated than ever and the art of battle looks more like a video game than hand to hand combat. Yet PTSD and broken souls is still as prevalent as it was in the time of the Boer War. When will we learn a better way?

This Sunday a friend of mine is going to share her story as a transgender woman of faith. I have known her since early in her transition and I have witnesses a beautiful soul blossoming after years of fear and anxiety at being who she was meant to be. She was born male, and struggled all her life to accept who she was truly meant to be. Her transition happened later in life, but today she is strong, she is spirit-filled, she is a beautiful advocate who speaks eloquently. I am in deep admiration for her.

Next Saturday we will gather for the Trans* Day of Remembrance. My friend is the MC for the night and I’m so pleased for her. I have been asked again to provide a blessing and am honoured to do so. November has become, for me, a season of remembrance.

As the Christian year winds down it’s a time of great reflection in looking back at where we have been, looking ahead to where we may dare to be and being present in where we currently are.

It has been said that if we do not remember our past mistakes, we are doomed to repeat them. And yet, how and when do we learn a new way to disagree and manage conflict? War cannot always be the way. There must be a peaceable solution…

I believe in the very depths of my soul that peace is possible. But it has to begin with each and every one of us when we choose love over hate, acceptance over fear, and peace over war.

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.

Amen

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Is it just me or does it seem the winds are strange this year?

When I was away in Tobermory there was a constant warm wind blowing.  It was especially prevalent on Election Day and in fact, the winds of change blew through Ottawa and beyond.  Most of the time the wind was gentle and soothing, but on occasion it whipped up into something approaching violence.

Since I’ve been home the winds seem to be shifting…making it difficult to point to one direction or another.  The leaves get whipped around, the dogs can’t seem to settle.  I’m having difficulty sleeping, which happens when the seasons change.  I can’t seem to settle…when I walk I feel connected and aware.  I’ve been walking at my usual morning time and again through the day, and I still can’t seem to settle.

My neck, head, face and jaw are in agony.  I’m going to see my RMT tonight and hopefully she can help relieve some of the pressure that is crowding my head.

The temperatures have been significantly above seasonal for this time of year.  I’ve yet to wear a pair of gloves and it’s November…strange.  But wonderful at the same time.

I’ve heard the word “El Nino” described for this winter…while that may mean above seasonal temperatures it can also mean more freezing rain than usual.  And that’s not good.  I’m not a fan of freezing rain.

This Sunday is Remembrance Sunday at the Church and I’m feeling a mixture of anxiety, sadness and pride.  There is so much to be said about the sacrifice of the women and men of the Canadian Armed Forces.  There is much to be said for the sacrifices of the soldiers who fight today.  And there’s the overwhelming need and desire for peace.  At heart I am a pacifist and yet I come from a proud military heritage.  And therein lies the tension.

I pray that God will be with me as I open my heart to preach.  I pray I will find the balance of that which unsettles me.  And I pray I will find the strength to heed the winds of change as they blow through my community, my life and my soul.

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Today at Church was Remembrance Sunday.  A parishioner kindly loaned us a magic box filled with medals, photos, a canteen and a metal helmet from the second world war.  The pictures were lovingly arranged in the worship space at the base of the altar, next to a white styrofoam cross.

Each year we bring out the battered cross, now in it’s 8th year.  It’s seen better days but it’s used for illustrative purposes.  This morning I brought the children up for Children’s Focus and they were mesmerized with the helmet.  Each in turn put in on their little heads and remarked how heavy it was.  I put it on my head too and yes, its really heavy!

I held up a large red poppy and asked them what it was.  The congregation recited “In Flanders Fields” and I preached on the joys of being Canadian and living a Life of Service…to God, to Queen (or King) and Country.

Each person is given a poppy to wear and they are asked to remove it after communion to pin it on the battered white cross.  The cross represents all that which wears us down.  Things we do, that we shouldn’t.  Things we don’t do, but should.  Things we say and regret.  Things we should say, but don’t.  One by one every person in the congregation, old and young alike, pins their poppy on the cross.  I suspect some are thanking our veterans.  I suspect some are remembering their family members who served, or their own military service.  I suspect some pin it silently.

For me, I remember my grand-dad, my uncle and my dad.  I grieve that they are dead, feel pride for their service, and wish there was a better word than “Thank you” to express my appreciation.

This year the Church was full, it was wonderful to see.  The choir sang two anthems.  We, as a congregation laughed and cried, remembered and respected, represented and sought.  And in the midst of this, God was there.

On Monday night, cadets from the 201 Squadron will gather between 7:00 pm and 11:00 pm to hold a vigil.  Candles will be lit in memory of those who have died, and they will keep silence.  The vigil candles will remain for the duration of the service on Tuesday.

The Community will gather on Tuesday, just before 11:00.  It will be cold, wet and windy (it always is). And we will gather, as many as are able, to remember.

We will observe two minutes of silence.  And then reveille will awaken us from our reverie.  “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.”  Amen.

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My Dad died. My mother and I were sitting in the funeral director’s office at the moment Dad drew his last breath. He wanted to be alone. And he was, save for a nurse who had come in to check on him. She knew his wishes so she was quiet as she stood by him, but not near him as he drew his last breath.

Today, in the province where I live, it is election day. My Dad never missed voting. He taught my brother and myself the importance of an educated ballot. In his mind, using a ballot was exercising choice, it was about making a decision. And my Dad always made educated decisions. He wouldn’t necessarily get to the all candidates debate, but he would talk to them if they came to the door. He would pore over the profiles in the local newspaper. And would never tell us for whom he would vote until after he had voted.

We didn’t discuss politics at home, Dad was not a political being, but he understood the importance of casting a ballot, of making a choice. And he believed that every vote counted, whether or not his vote was for the elected party.

It was two years ago today that my mother and I waited in the hospital parking lot for my brother and his family. We changed vehicles so Mam and I could take the boys to her house and let D & M visit with Dad. Both N & S were awesome. I even figured out the seat belts on the car seats.

When D & M got back to Mam’s we sat and chatted, laughed, cried, reminisced and remembered Dad, especially when Dad was well. His last couple of years were filled with faulty heart valves, pneumonia and COPD, among other things. But there were moments of laughter. He wrote his life story and I have it on a disk.

I miss my Dad, more than I can express in words. So today I will stay busy. I will vote this afternoon and I will never, ever forget him.

Take it easy Dad, this ballot will be cast for you.

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For the most part I am a fairly laid back individual. One of the realities of my vocation is facing death within the Congregation and with members of the community itself. Something that has bothered me for a very long time is the infuriating necessity people have to use any word, other than death.

Flowers die, plants die; they don’t take a dirt nap. Although that pun is pretty funny.

Pets die, or they are euthanized. It drives me batty when I hear someone say that their beloved pet was “put to sleep”.

A friend of mine spoke of just this thing as she eulogized her father. When my dad died a few years later I heard her words coming out of my mouth. A paraphrase of what I said went something like this…

My father died and it hurts.
He is not “resting in the arms of Jesus”. If you knew my Dad you’d know that he and Jesus weren’t on a first name basis.
We did not “lose him”. He is not wandering around the Wal-Mart parking lot looking for us.
He did not “pass away”. He did not “shuffle off this mortal coil”.
He did not “kick the bucket”. He could not lift his leg that high.
He did not “expire”. He’s not a parking meter.

I think you understand what I am saying.

My dad died. It hurt. And trying to soften what happened did not make it any better.

Why are we so afraid of saying “death” or “died”? A quick internet search turned up over 100 euphemisms for dead, some of which are absolutely hilarious. Some of which are entertaining, and some are just plain weird.

When I meet with a family whose loved one has just died, my first words are “I’m so sorry” and I wait for them to speak next. If they don’t, we sit in silence, or, if appropriate, give them a hug.

So many well-meaning people said completely useless and even insulting things to me, thinking they were being helpful. I am a person of faith. A religious person. My father was not. So attempting to be “helpful” with phrases like “he is now at rest”, or “in the arms of his Saviour” were not helpful.

My dad believed in something greater than himself, and I believe he was at peace with God, but he did not get into specifics. I don’t think he prayed on a regular basis. Because that was my dad. He appreciated being on the parish’s prayers list. “If it doesn’t do any good, it won’t do any harm” was his thinking.

I love my dad and I miss him. We’re having a provincial election on the anniversary of his death. Kind of ironic, given how he felt about politics. He didn’t like euphemisms about things like death and yet he would often cope with the death of his friend by writing down as many euphemisms as he could think. “Taking the great dirt nap”, “shuffled off his mortal coil”, “six feet under”, “croaked”, “snuffed it”, etc.

I think “popped his clogs” was one of his personal favourites, and this exercise helped him come to terms. But when he saw the family he would say “I’m sorry” and nothing more. because truly, there isn’t anything else that is helpful to say.

So on the 12th of June I will cast my vote, as my dad always said “if you don’t vote, you have no right to complain”. I love my dad. I miss him. One day I hope to see him again.

He didn’t “slip away peacefully’, although he had a peaceful death. He didn’t “pass”, he’s not an exam or an abandoned vehicle. He died. It hurts. But it’s supposed to.

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