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Wednesday, December 12, 2012

43: The Last Post

The last time I sent out an email announcing a new blog post, I included a little slice-of-life kind of story that I called "The Last Post." So many people wrote to comment on it that I thought I should put it in the blog where others could enjoy it too, instead of deleting it from my "Sent" file and exiling it into outer cyber darkness forever.

But as I considered adding it to the blog, I had to take into account that this site is now visited by guests from over 60 countries, most of whom would have no idea of what I was talking about. So here is a little glossary up front:

Remembrance Day: On the 11th of November every year, countries in the Commonwealth observe the time when hostilities in World War I officially ended in 1919: at the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month. We honour members of the armed forces who have died in the line of duty, then, and since then.

The Last Post: This is a melody usually played as a trumpet solo right at 11:00 a.m. A minute of silence follows, and is then broken by the trumpet playing Reveille (translated "wake up"). Wikipedia says, "The two tunes symbolize sunset and sunrise respectively, and therefore, death and resurrection."

The Poppy: Every year at the beginning of November, artificial poppies are made available to wear as a sign of respect and appreciation for our vets. In Canada, monies donated for these little emblems amount to $16.5 million annually. All poppy money collected by a Legion branch stays within that local community and pays for medical equipment, home services, and long-term care facilities for ex-service people in need of financial assistance.

The poppy became a symbol of remembrance through a poem by John McCrae, a Canadian poet, physician, author, artist and soldier. The poem, In Flanders Fields, was inspired through the loss of a dear friend in battle. McCrae himself, in charge of a field hospital, succumbed to pneumonia in 1918 at the age of 45.

When I was in grade school, I and my fellows students were required to memorize the poem. It's amazing how easily it still springs from the memory:

In Flanders Fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses row on row
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scare heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders Fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders Fields.

With this rather lengthy intro, here is the story I sent out with my last email:

The Last Post

Greg and I jump out of bed at 5:45 in our motel room. He is hustling to meet his crew for breakfast; I need to fix the first meal of my day and then go back to bed for a couple of hours. The room is a little chilly, so I slip on my cosy, short grey robe. My youngest helped me pick it out at La Senza. It’s probably a couple of decades to young for me with its double row of sassy ruffles around the bottom, but I like it.

Below the ruffle hangs the hot pink print of my nightie. My legs are still bare, so I rummage in Greg’s dresser for his pyjama pants, a subtle blue-and-grey plaid flannelette. I pull them on and bunch the ample waistline up in the front, securing it with a ponytail elastic. Socks, black, to keep my feet from getting cold.

I’m still not warm enough, so I add my go-everywhere black fleece vest with the fake leather shoulders and collar. The plunging neck of the robe is letting in the draft, so I grab the scarf I was wearing yesterday, a bold block plaid of black, rust, and grey, and I sling it around my neck. Shortly thereafter I catch a reflection of myself in the full-length mirror. I’m quite a sight.

“Hey,” I say to Greg, “how do you like my look this morning?”

He pauses in his hurried morning routine and gazes at me for several long seconds. “Stunning,” he says.

Stunning. I guess that would explain the stunned look on his face.

“Halloween is over,” he adds.

“I know,” I tell him, “and so is Remembrance Day, but I still have my poppy.” I lift the collar of my vest to show him the brilliant splash of red.

I got the poppy at the Edmonton Airport just before catching the plane to Vernon. It was Armistice Day and somehow I had thus far missed picking up one of the little fake flowers with the deeply emotional symbolism. I inquired of a group, each of whom was wearing a poppy, and they directed me to where they’d got theirs. Soon I had mine pinned to my vest.

As I checked through security, I heard bagpipes coming from somewhere. I thought it was live at first, and my flesh rose in goose-bumps and tears started in my eyes, as always happens to me at this time of remembrance. I soon realized that the sound was coming from a large flat screen TV in a sports bar/restaurant.

I was sitting at my gate when I heard an airline personnel tell a passenger that there had been a gate change for the flight. I stood and gathered up my belongings to move along when suddenly the strains of the Last Post floated through the airport. I checked my watch. Eleven o’clock. I closed my eyes and bowed my head and waited while the trumpet sounded its mournful solo.

Give them a moment of remembrance; they gave us their lives.

But as I listened, I was aware of other sounds. A lot of other sounds. People chatting on cell phones, announcements over the PA, luggage wheels rolling on the hard floor. There didn’t seem to be another soul nearby who had paused for or even noticed the solemn salute. I was already sobered by the sacred moment; now I was saddened as well by the lack of attention it received. Perhaps most people now think that the Last Post only refers to the most recent blog entry.

Which brings me to mine.

It’s called Xcellent Xylitol, and it takes a look at this wonderful natural sweetener that I’ve just recently learned about. Check it out below.

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