As a child, I hated Remembrance Sunday. I very much enjoyed my time in the Cubs, Scouts and Venture Scouts and tolerated the monthly church visit. However, Remembrance Church Parade involved earnest older people telling me that I must be serious about this. There was no explaining why. That didn’t wash for me, I had an inquiring mind but was very innocent. It could also be guaranteed that one of our number would spend the two minute silence trying to make the rest of us laugh.
I was too young for the war in Vietnam to have impinged upon me and other wars seemed a world away in several senses. The war poetry learned by heart at school spoke a little – but the images of World War One trenches felt unreal. To be fair, Wilfrid Owen’s ‘Anthem for Doomed Youth’ is the only poem that I can (just about) remember completely –due more to the skill of the poet (“the stuttering rifles’ rapid rattle”) than what the words were saying.
Contrast that with the Passover Seder, where the youngest child in a Jewish family asks “Why is this night different from all other nights?” directly following the instruction in Exodus 13 “You shall tell your child on that day, saying, ‘It is because of what the LORD did for me when I came out of Egypt.’” Sensibly, Seder starts with the children to engage their curiosity.
Remembering both the horrors and sacrifice of war and also the goodness of and deliverance by God are essential to my adult self, who understands something of what loss entails. I’m also slowly learning that remembrance of God’s goodness needs to be threaded through daily life, as exemplified by Muslims with their Salah five times a day and monks with their seven daily Monastic Offices.