Odd Thoughts: Yesterday’s today lost for tomorrow

Bob Groeneveld delves into why we should be grateful to others for our memories.

As the years progress, a personal rhythm begins to evolve. We tend to affix certain types of memories and thoughts to the earth’s position in relation to the sun – positions to which we arbitrarily have assigned values of months and weeks and days.

Just as the earth dances a rhythm around the sun, our personal rhythms centre on special dates.

Some of the dates are unique to ourselves. They can mark birthdays or weddings. The date that recalls the death of someone you loved or admired can draw special significance that creates an annual landmark. For some, the rhythm includes life accomplishments. Graduations may be important, or the attainment of a professional goal. For me, Feb. 4 has special importance as the day I last smoked a cigarette, now nearly 40 years ago.

Holidays and generally acknowledged days of special interest become focal points of varying strength, depending on the personal experiences they evoke that build us into who we are.

People in most Christian-valued societies have special thoughts for Christmas. That day always brings my thoughts closer to the corner of my mind that stores memories of family gatherings, and of my mom and the things she did to help me shape my life.

Other religions offer their own similar focal points.

Labour Day always reminds me of my dad, the focal point being an experience long ago in which he saved my brother from drowning, while I stood helplessly watching him almost lose his own life in the process.

Part of the rhythm of ebbing and flowing memories as those special dates come and go is the learning process. That latter focal point always reminds me of my father’s strength, and of his ability – and his willingness – to deliver that strength to us, any time we needed it, and at any cost.

Every year, as we approach Remembrance Day, my personal rhythm drifts towards the part of my brain that houses poppies and cenotaphs, bent and tired old veterans who were once robust young soldiers, and a yellow submarine.

The poppies lead to the cenotaphs. They are both about respecting the value that people of yesterday placed on the value of our todays.

The veterans – and the ceremonies honouring them – remind us of the awful cost that can be associated with the disruption of the rhythm of life.

That’s not a value judgment on the wars that those people fought, but an acknowledgment of what they were willing to sacrifice to maintain the rhythm that sustains us all.

Our Remembrance Day watchword that brings yesterday, today, and tomorrow together around Remembrance Day is “Lest We Forget” – a simple reminder of people and experiences that have helped to shape all our personal rhythms.

In India there is a monument to Second World War veterans which is inscribed with this tremendously powerful sentiment: “When you go home, tell them of us, and say, for your tomorrow we gave our today.”

Years ago, I used to drive past Nanoose Bay when visiting family in Port Alberni. At the naval dock across the bay, there often was parked a submarine. It and other naval vessels there were painted bright yellow, so they could easily be spotted and identified during peacekeeping and humanitarian efforts. For decades, they have all been painted the dull grey of warrior stealth.

The yellow submarine has become one of the most significant focal points of my personal rhythm, each year renewing in me the hope that, perhaps tomorrow, those ships will again shed their grey cloaks – giving purpose back to todays that are lost.

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