Today is Remembrance Day in Canada. It is a day set aside for all of us to remember and honour all of our soldiers who have risked, and often lost, their lives to protect not only us, but also the citizens of many countries around the world.
Today in Oakville we will honour those brave men and women at 10:15 am, at the Cenotaph at George's Square, corner of Church and Navy Streets. The Oakville Legion Branch 114 will be hosting the ceremony.
I wrote the following in honour of my Great-great Uncle, Tom Smith, who sacrificed his life in 1917 when he was only 27 years old so that we could all enjoy the freedoms we have today.
In Memory of Tom Smith 1891-1917, Battle for Passchendaele, Belgium~Your Hope Is Strong In Us
The thousands of miles that separated Thomas Smith from his family and home in the North Bay area of Ontario, Canada, disappeared in his final hours as he recalled his rocky Canadian shield home and the barren landscape of felled forests and clear lakes.
What he would give for one more day to be back home cutting trees as a lumberman rather than dying here in the waste deep mud and wet cold in the battle for Passchendaele, Belgium. The end was so close, on Tom's last day, so close and yet so far.
Tom, my Grannyda's Uncle, died in that mud, better known as the 'slough of despond', on October 26th, 1917. Barely 11 days later the battle was won. 'If only he could have hung on a bit longer', we voice our thoughts as we shake our heads sadly.
He left behind no children; only the families of his siblings and his closest brother, Blakeney Smith, my Great-Grandfather. Today, as we remember, our hearts are sad for you and the thousands of your compatriots who died for the same cause, Tom.
We keep your memory safe with us and have not forgotten you, nor the sacrifice you made so that we, your descendants, might live in peace and security.
If you are able to look down upon us now and hear the conversations of the family who still feels a heavy heart over your death, you will have seen the narrowing of my Father's and my eyes this morning, as we sat remembering in a quiet kitchen while drinking tea and gazing upon all that we have left of you.
You would have seen our heads downcast in sorrow as we talked of your height of 5'11 1/2" and how you were tall and strong and had the blue eyes of your family who came before you.
You would have heard my Father exclaim once more, while holding old documents in hand, 'such a tragedy and loss of so many young men and all so far from home.' You would have heard us discuss your grave in Flander's Fields and the memorial there with your name on it. Still so far from home.
You will know, that we who hold your memory strong, hold your medals up to the light and read your name finely engraved on the outside edges, as a feeling of sorrowful pride envelops our hearts and we remember once more, that these were earned , by you.
We know so little about you.
Of course, we have all of your particulars in government issued, official looking documents, duly stamped and signed, that describe your appearance down to the finest detail and where you were stationed and when you arrived and when of course, you died.
The 'human' element is missing though. What made you, you.
What made you smile, what songs you enjoyed on Sunday evenings after dinner with the rest of the Smith clan in those northern woods you called home.
We know not of your dreams that you held close to your heart or if there was someone back home that you held a candle for in the depths of your being.
Those stories were not recorded by government issued documents. It was only your body and mind they wanted, and this was evidenced in the line of one document where you were 'taken for strength' to fight the next mission as your military history moved forward in fine penmanship on a frail, old paper that we keep safe.
We sit in kitchens and surmise as we gaze upon the seriousness and determination of your handsome young face, and in our hearts we know, that not only did you do good, you did good for all of us. We will remember you Thomas Smith, always.
If, in your final hours, the old phrase of your Irish ancestors, 'my hope is strong in thee', crossed your mind while you lay in the cold and mud so far from home, know that your final thoughts sent on a trajectory of time, were received by us and they will live on.
What you fought and gave your life for, your hope for peace and the security of future generations that was etched upon your soul, is strong in us, Tom Smith.
Your unspoken thoughts in your final hours, your hope, will live on through us and the successes you died for, will always remain.
We will remember you , Thomas Smith, we will always remember.
In Memory of Private T SMITH
648824, 58th Bn., Canadian Infantry
(Central Ontario Regiment)
Who died age 27
on 26 October 1917
Son of William Smith, of Teeswater, Ontario.
Remembered with honour
YPRES (MENIN GATE) MEMORIAL
Commemorated in perpetuity by the Commonwealth War Graves Commission