A young high school student in Alberta recently shared with us an interesting story about an English assignment he had just completed. The task was to write an essay about someone in his life who had experienced adversity, and to describe how these hardships shaped that person’s character.
He began with: “My Papa recently lost his balance and took a fall while on his daily walk with his small dog. He didn’t break any bones, but he was bruised and battered.” The boy went on to share how this recent fall reminded him of the stories his 88-year-old grandfather had shared about his experience as a WW11 soldier. He didn’t often like to talk about those days, but when he did; the boy listened carefully and reflected on the lessons.
He wrote about how his grandfather was assigned the role of carrying the extra rifle* and ammunition for his Platoon. His load was heavy, and he was a small-framed man so he often had trouble keeping his balance and would sometimes stumble and fall. Once when his Platoon was on foot, they climbed a steep gully and when they got to the top they came under fire and his grandfather slipped and fell backward down the gully. Unhurt but separated from his Company, he dug a foxhole and spent the night there alone. This was the eve of the young soldier’s 19th birthday.
The boy was captivated by this and other stories his grandfather shared about surviving war, going to university, building a career and having a family. He compared his grandfather’s life to his own and grappled with the differences and disparities. He was in awe of the sacrifices that had been made so that his own life journey could be secure and steady.
In his essay the boy described his Grandfather’s character as strong, courageous and resilient. He wrote about how he had faced a multitude of challenges and hardships in his lifetime, but he didn’t let them get him down. He wrote: “Papa fell during the war, and he falls sometimes now, but always he knows he has to get up and keep going.”
The story this boy told was a moving tribute to a life well-lived, to battles valiantly fought and to a foundation of courage impeccably laid. More importantly it is a testament to the power of words… A reminder that stories connect hearts and souls and build an enduring line of defining character.
* His Grandfather was called the BAR man (Browning Automatic Rifle). He shared this story with us but his Grandfather is not an AgeCare resident.
Photo Credit: BiblioArchives / LibraryArchives: Soldiers of Princess Patricia’s Canadian Light Infantry “A” Company in action north of Ortona, Italy, January 29, 1944