Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13 KJV)
This Sunday (November 11, 2018) which is Remembrance Day, marks the 100th anniversary of the end of World War 1 (November 11, 1918). The event that marked the end of World War 1 was the Armistice Agreement between the Allies and Germany. The agreement was signed at 5 am, November 11, 1918. It was agreed that the armistice, the laying down of rifles and weapons, would happen on the 11th hour, of the 11th day, of the 11th month. Thus, ended “the war to end all wars” as World War 1 is often called. The war killed almost 7 million civilians and 10 million military personnel. Some historians say that we could add another 20 million to that figure due to indirect causes. It was quite a costly and bloody war.
After World War 1, many monuments and cenotaphs were built to commemorate the army personnel who gave their lives for King and country in the British Commonwealth countries which includes Canada. Very often there is a Bible verse printed on these monuments. Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends. (John 15:13 KJV) Today there are not many people who are aware of the Biblical origin of this statement found in Canadian war memorials and cenotaphs. Jesus is talking about the love that is so profound that one dies for their friends. Certainly, our war veterans can testify to countless friends who died on the battlefield. As they gather at the monuments and cenotaphs every Remembrance Day, their thoughts return to battlefields where their friends died. They grieve the loss of their friends. The families of those who died on the battlefield also grieve their loss.
Maureen Watt is part of our church family. It was a great loss for her when she lost her last husband due to illness in 1999. Then she went to a grief support group who helped her through that difficult time. As each person shared their grief, they were there for each other. There was a lot of crying. As a result of her experience in that grief support group she wrote this poem. She shared this poem with me this week. As I read it, I realised that this poem can also be read by families who lost their loved ones in a war. When we lose a loved one whether through war or through illness, we need to give ourselves permission to grieve in the manner that is unique to the personalities that God created us to have. At Remembrance Day, we come together to grieve with those who lost loved ones in war.
Our heavy hearts were burden borne.
Compelled were we to grieve and mourn.
We came together one bleak day
With ashen faces (pale and gray),
To tell the stories, one by one,
Of how our grieving had begun.
We wounded souls, all spattered red,
Recounted times with our dear dead.
To wake from this, no dream alas!
Our hopes all gone that this would pass.
But sorrow, washed by many tears,
Began to ease (along with fears).
With comfort given and received,
Peace crept in slowly as we grieved.
We sojourn bravely in this place
And strength came with each friend’s embrace.
Remembering loved ones, through the years,
Will now bring far more smiles than tears.
With steadfast faith, receiving blessings from above,
Arms open wide to welcome life, to welcome love.
(A poem by Maureen Watt)