Maybe today is an important day, and maybe it is not. Maybe it is important to some, but not to others. Maybe it is important, but in different ways to different people.
To me, today is a very important day, to remember the lives and to mourn the deaths of my two grandfathers. I believe I lost them both to the war that ended on this day seventy-one years ago – one on the battlefield, the other to post-traumatic stress. Because of the war, I never got to know either of them very well.
But I know that my paternal grandfather sent countless letters from the battlefield to his wife and sons, telling them how much he cared about them and wished for their safety. My father and I only found out about the letters after my grandmother’s funeral, when we found them hidden at the bottom of her dresser drawer. He was just another loving husband and father.
And I know that my maternal grandfather was a man of honour and well-respected by his friends and business associates, but struggled with alcoholism because of his honourable nature. I only found out when I became old enough to understand (by which time he had long succumbed to the toxic effects of alcohol) that he was trying to drink away his remorse for what he had done on the battlefield and guilt for coming back alive. He was just another sturdy but fragile man.
Maybe this is all I got to know about my two grandfathers.
And maybe I have wished so many times I was given more time to get to know them better.
But maybe it is enough for me to know that they were no different from those they fought with or against – they all had families to protect but were prisoners of conscience in the way they went about it.
So, maybe when I remember their lives and mourn their deaths today, I am remembering the lives and mourning the deaths of all like them who were lost to war.
And in so doing, I think of this day not only as the day that the war ended, but also as the day that a world in peace began… peace that my grandfathers and the like fought for and finally won over together.
I understand that we place different importance on today, depending on the standpoints our nations took seventy-one years ago. And I fully respect these differences. But before we start emphasizing the differences, can we first get to know better all those who made this day become so important and acknowledge the similarities in them? I am quite sure we will find many of the same faces – faces of loving husbands and fathers and sturdy but fragile men – on them.
Then, maybe we, their sons and daughters whom they wished to protect, can all stand facing the same way, all looking towards the same peace they fought so hard for regardless of which standpoints they took.
You now know a little about two of my people in my grandfathers. If you do not mind, I would love to get to know your people as well. That would make today all the more important to me.