Although I’ve walked the cobbled stones of Gastown hundreds of times and passed by famous landmarks such as the steam clock and the statue of a fallen soldier, I had never stopped to read the accompanying inscription on its plaque. But that Saturday morning, a week ago, our walking club was in downtown Vancouver, and I finally took the time to read the plaque. I unexpectedly began to feel a lump forming in my throat, as it brought back memories of my dad, who was a WW2 veteran.
My dad was with the Ontario Regiment and lost his eye in battle. I learned later in life that they had to hold his head still with sandbags as they removed the shrapnel from where his left eye had been. He seldom spoke about the war, but I’m sure he carried a lot of horrific memories in his head. Ma told me that he used to wake up during the night screaming from the nightmares of war, that he experienced as a soldier. Many teenagers joined to fight in that war and many had similar post-war traumas. They postponed their youthful dreams and future aspirations and some even lost their faith. But post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) had yet to be invented – and neither had a treatment.
My dear mom once told me that dad had never told her that he loved her. He showed it to her, but he and his family never spoke about their feelings. Dad’s mother never even kissed him or his brothers’ goodbye when they were shipping off to war. She also never told them she loved them, although I’m sure she did in her heart. Funny, how some people can be so different in a family. I have never been able to conceal my emotions, but have accepted the fact that it’s who I am. Some things you never outgrow.
So as I stood there at the statue of the fallen soldier, I read the inscription and was moved by the terror that must fill a soldier mind in his last few moments of life. Gasping for a precious, last breath of life, he screams a silent ‘help me mom!’ until the darkness finally closes his eyes for the last time.
Here’s the plaque inscription:
To commemorate those in the service of the Canadian Pacific Railway Company who at the call of King and Country left all that was dear to them. Endured hardship, faced danger and finally passed out of sight of men by the path of duty and self-sacrifice giving up their own lives that others might live in freedom. Let those who come after see to it that their names be not forgotten. 1914-1916 * 1939-1945
Sometimes, when I’m walking with a group of people, I’ll meet a guy or gal, with an interesting story. You can learn a lot about a person during a two-hour walk, and it never gets boring. But it’s not like gossip or idle chatter – and there is always an experience to learn from. And usually, it’s just a handshake or hugs with a fellow walker that removes a bit of the emptiness from one’s heart.
On Saturday morning, our walking club walked around the Stanley Park Seawall, and I talked about motorsports, football, internet dating, concerts, Trump and dogs. Colby, the black Lab was there with Denise, his loving mommy. Holly always sniffs and smells Colby on my pant legs, which usually serve as nose-scratching posts to Colby. Everyone loves Colby; and to me, he’s the club mascot.
I waved goodbye to everyone at the White Spot on Georgia Street and headed back to the Waterfront terminal. But instead of going into the terminal, I walked to the nearby statue of the fallen soldier and thought about my dad.
On November 11, 2001, we finally told each other that we loved each other; and ten minutes later he died. And from now on, anytime I walk by that statue of the fallen soldier – I’ll be silently telling my Dad that I love him.
Dedicated to my Dad.
Today’s tune from Danny’s library (purchased):