This is how many names are read aloud annually at our Remembrance Day Service. Each person is a member of our school community who paid the ultimate sacrifice during the First or Second World War.
It is deeply important for us as a school to never forget their names, and to pay our respect to them for their commitment to our country.
Our Remembrance Day Service is one of the most important annual traditions at our school. The Junior School service was held on Wednesday, while the Middle and Senior School service was Thursday; both of which were beautifully poignant and respectful.
Our tradition at the SMUSpaper is to publish Rev. Keven Fletcher’s speech and prayer from the service.
Remembrance Day 2018
In Flanders fields the poppies blow,
between the crosses, row on row…
So begins the poem that was recited at our Junior School gathering and will be sung by our Middle School choir.
It was penned by Canadian Major John McCrae during the First World War, after he conducted a burial service for his fellow soldier and friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer.
I realize it’s difficult for most of us to understand the intimacy of such a loss, suffered in the midst of the trenches, the mud, and the madness of war; but it’s essential that we try.
It’s essential because when we read about tens of millions of dead, it’s hard for us to see them as individual, relatable people. Our sight often grows clearer, though, when we instead focus on a specific person, and then step back to view the whole.
At this ceremony, we will try to comprehend the millions upon millions lost by many sides in many wars by doing exactly that.
So when the Middle School rises to sing, keep in mind that the words were written by a man named John after he laid to rest his 22-year-old friend Alexis.
And when our theatre troupe depicts the experience of women in conflict, hear the bombs along with them, go to the shelter, work the assembly line, stand shoulder to shoulder.
And when Mr. Turner reads the letter from Captain Harvey, imagine our founder greeting students and staff along the same School House hallways that we now walk.
And as each student’s name is read and each light extinguished, let us think of them the way we do the students we know today. Each as unique and colourful and imperfect as any other; as any of us.
Let’s make this gathering personal – because it was for them and those they loved – and it remains equally so for people in conflict zones around our world today.
Remembrance Day Prayer and Blessing
Beloved God, today we remember the dead.
When we recall their moments of courage, may we employ that courage in our own lives.
When we ponder their willingness to sacrifice, may we find the resolve to devote ourselves to larger causes.
When we recollect the values that they held dear, may we recommit ourselves to what we hold dear.
And God, even as we leave this gathering may we not leave behind its meaning so that when we listen to the news, to the words of our leaders, to the pleas of our sisters and brothers throughout the world, we may play our part: serving the needs of others, being honest about who we are and what we need to change, respecting that there are many ways to see our world and its challenges, and, ultimately, finding the courage to act.
All this, God, so that the promise of this world can be realized, a place where swords are beaten into plowshares; a place where everyone’s needs are met and we have no one to fear.
This is your vision. This is our prayer.
In this ceremony, we’ve remembered through song, a poet’s friend; through theatre, the experience of women in conflict zones; through a letter, our school’s founder; and through the extinguishing of candles, so many students – each one an individual, each one set against a backdrop of tens of millions.
As we leave this place, we take with us John McCrae’s challenge:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
Along with remembering the dead, we also need to remember that there are people in this world, out there, right now, who face the same horrors that took lives in the past. And each of their names is as important as any that have been spoken today.
For their sake and for ours, may we remember those who have died by finding a better way to live in our own time.