Remembering on Memorial Day Weekend

Slim Paley




It begins with my mother’s recollection of a visit to Belgium on her honeymoon 50+ years ago…

…My father’s grandfather had been a soldier in the 1st World War. He lost his life, alongside literally thousands of others that day in Belgium, in 1915. Seemingly endless tides of brave yet unimaginably terrified young men and mere boys rising from the trenches to be caught in barbed wire and machine gun fire.  He left a widow with 7 children back home in England. Some 40 years later, his grandson now wished to pay his respects at his grave.

My mother; ”Of all the places we’d planned to see, your father’s visit to his grandfather’s grave was very important to him.” 

When they arrived at their destination in Belgium they were overcome with emotion at the immense size and immaculate condition of the beautiful cemetery. On this they both agree. Meticulous care had been taken honouring the memory of all the heroic foreign souls who had lost their lives in battle on Belgian soil, even after all these years. My mother remembers searching the rows of identical headstones for what seemed like hours, to no avail, almost reaching the point of giving up. My father recalls he had a map of sorts; a grid of numbers & letters, I presume sent to the families of the deceased after the war. In any case, after quite a hike, they came upon a lone gardener to whom my father spoke a few words en francais. When the gardener heard my father’s last name, he lifted his jacket from where it was placed…directly upon my great grandfather’s headstone…

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H/T Dennis Miller: “Not just this weekend, but every day…”

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