The grandfather of my children is a wonderful man. A man of great wisdom, pride and patriotism. At 92, Joe is still remarkably sharp and witty. Although, at this time of year, he becomes quiet and pensive. When he does we all suspect he recalls the details of his time served on the front lines of WWII.
“I spent the night of my 19th birthday in a foxhole with the sound of live artillery firing overhead,” He said when I visited recently. “A runner came by and told us ‘keep your heads down tonight boys’, which meant artillery was firing proximity shells that could explode if they came close enough — and boy let me tell you — they did sound close enough,” he explained.
This story and countless others Ed relayed to my children as they grew and wrestled with the disturbing questions of life and all its injustices. About having food and a warm bed when other kids in the world had neither. About enjoying safety and freedom, but being told that it came at a price — a price their grandfather helped pay.
At seven years old, my youngest son was unsettled by the idea of war. He became anxious and preoccupied – trying to understand just how it came to be that people had to fight to win peace and freedom for others.
After several sleepless nights, Josh’s grade two teacher wisely suggested that he write a poem to express his feelings. I found that poem this week as I was packing up boxes of childhood memorabilia to save for him when he finished his years at university. It read like so:
Papa, I’m sorry that you had to fight so hard for us.
You must have been awfully brave and really, really strong.
I can’t even imagine you holding a gun. When I look at your hand, holding my hand, it feels soft and warm. Not really the kind that could shoot at people. That must have been really hard.
Were you cold and scared and hungry a lot?
Did you wish you could close your eyes and make everyone just turn around and go back to their homes?
Did you wish you were sleeping in your bed with your mom and dad close?
I want to tell you that I feel proud and lucky you went to war for us.
You fought hard to make us safe, and it worked. We feel safe and happy.
I want you to know that you are my hero forever and ever.
You are a very good person and a good grandpa and I love you very much.
This November, as you pause to reflect on the peace and freedom we enjoy today, remember to give gratitude to those who must have been awfully brave and really really strong.