Sunday, 11 November 2012


There are so many scattered thoughts and emotions on such a day that it can be hard to know what to think.  I’m going to read a poem now by a woman who lost two sons to warfare. Every year in Canada at the war memorial in Ottawa one mother is chosen to lay a wreath representing all mothers who lost children. One such recently, in year 2000, was Clare Stewart who had lost both her sons in war and in this poem she records her thoughts standing at the memorial that year, just as we did today, like this;

She stands in the cold
Her black cloth coat
Suits the occasion
But fails to keep her warm
Despite the gleam of silver
At her breast.*

Her thoughts circle round:

“Why did we have another war?
Didn’t we lose enough men already?
Why did my sons have to die?
O God, keep me upright.
Help me not to scream
Out their names.

“What will we have for dinner tonight?
What would Joey and Bill have wanted?
It’s so hard to have faith…
It’s so hard to have hope…
Why did my sons have to die?
Jesus, you comforted your mother
As she stood and watched you die.
If I pray hard enough
Will you bring comfort to me?

“If that preacher says ‘Noble Sacrifice’
One more time I’ll scream…
I’ll scream out their names
So hard the dead will hear me.
Only this time, I’ll scream out loud
Instead of in my heart.”

But she doesn’t scream…
She stands beside the Honour Guard
Who are older than her sons
Were when they died.

The people nearby watch her,
Wondering how she can stand
So still, so calm,
Knowing she lost two boys,
Thinking she has lost her grief
After all these years
When to her it might
Have been today.

It bears asking the question why do we do it? Remember and ponder. What good can come of it?
Well if an occasion like this can curb our enthusiasm for war by just a small amount I think it is worth it. If it can make our search for peaceful solutions that bit more earnest I think it is worth it. If it can bring the reality of the pain misery and human waste of war closer, rescuing war from Hollywood and jingoistic headlines I think it is worth it. If it reconnects us with the emotional pain of having lost a loved one to war and makes us think twice about our current actions I think it is worth it.
Death is the great leveller. It doesn’t ask your name, your religion, your politics, your race or gender. A mother’s tears over the death of her sons or daughters don’t sting any less because they happen to be British or Afghan, Israeli or Palestinian, Iranian or Iraqi. The pain is shared in common because we are human beings, and if an occasion like this can in any small way help to curb the madness I think it is worth it.
Exactly one month ago on the 10th October David Cameron gave a speech at the Imperial war museum, which was screened live and I happened to watch it. I am not a conservative and nor do I have any  particular liking for the Prime minister but I was very impressed that day by his genuineness and passion for his subject that actually gave me hope.  He said this;

 "For me, one of the most powerful things I have ever seen is the monument erected by the Turks in Gallipoli.

Think of the bloodshed.

Think of the tens of thousands of Turkish dead.

And then listen to the inscription to our boys and those from Commonwealth countries that fell.(words by Kemal Attaturk)

“Those heroes who shed their blood and lost their lives, you are now lying in the soil of a friendly country.

Therefore rest in peace.

There is no difference between the Johnnies and the Mehmets to us where they lie side by side in this country of ours.

You, the mothers who sent their sons from far away countries wipe away your tears, your sons are now lying in our bosom and are in peace.

After having lost their lives on this land they become our sons as well.”

For me those words capture so much of what this is all about.

That from such war and hatred can come unity and peace.(like blood red poppies growing out of the mud fields of devastating blood letting)

More than anything it should give us a confidence and determination never to go back.

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for a fantastically thought provoking and moving sermon today. It managed to be both respectful and challenging which was perfect for the occasion.