As a kid I grew up listen to stories on both sides of my family about the war. It was always The War. Of course my family meant WWII. It was real to my family, not just some newsreel or stories that had been handed down. Grandfathers, Fathers, Uncles, Brothers, Cousins and Friends all had first hand knowledge of The War. In my family I think my Beloved Great Grandmother known to all as little Gram suffered more than most. Her husband had survived the Great War, but then she was asked to give up her sons for the Second World War. They all came back, except one.
Warrant Office Class I Gerard McEachern, Royal Canadian Airforce, killed in action over the North Sea, 19 May 1943.
He had finished his tour of duty but took one last flight for a buddy who was too sick to go. I heard stories of how my Gram knew it happened before she received the telegram. The story goes, her son came to her in a dream and by morning her hair was white. My family is filled with story tellers. True, we embellish things. I am not sure of the actual details surrounding this momentous event but I know it changed her. How could it not? When a mother loses a child a giant part of her heart is ripped from her chest and she dies a little bit that day. His picture was always on her dresser when I came to visit. She always commented on my curly hair, just like his. But she never told me any stories about him. I heard all kinds of crazy stories about the rest of her children, 5 in all, but never about Gerard. I imagine the pain in remembering made her chest wound open up and bleed. As a child, I never understood. Of course I thought I did, of course I was wrong. As a mother I can’t even begin to imagine the pain she went through. Then one day last year, I could almost imagine. We were in Belgium visiting Ypres. The Meinin Gate was the destination.
I remember hearing my Honey’s excited voice, “WE ARE DRIVING THROUGH IT!” Cool! So we had arrived to the Menin Gate. It was impressive! It records the soldiers of the British Empire without graves. We walked through it, looked at names and saw my son’s name. Although I knew that wasn’t really my son, it still weakened my knees. At that moment I knew I never wanted to actually see my son’s name on a wall. I was ill.
We moved our way up to the grassy park that was high above Yrpes. I needed air, I didn’t share my feelings with my family. My honey wanted to keep exploring but I needed to change my view. Like my Offspring, the time had come for me to end the War Memorial visits. It was starting to affect me.
Today I watched the services from Ottawa, our Nation’s Capital. I saw Prime Minister Harper and his wife lay a wreath, then the young moms of Soldiers who were killed in action Afghanistan. Heart braking. I looked over at Genetic Offspring and requested that he never put me in that position, ever. I am grateful for all the mothers who gave up their boys. I can’t even imagine how they can keep breathing every day. Every boy that is laid to rest in fields all over Europe had a mother. Walking amongst the head stones of boys, whose ages are the same as my son and his friends, or my nephew and his friends, was shattering. The stones all had a maple leaf and if the name was known it was there. If the religion was known, the symbol was on it, be it a cross, star or moon. At that point, I think Religion no longer matters. We are all one under God.
Today I remember the boys whose stories I have heard time and again. I remember the stories of men who lived to tell me about it their time in past wars. I remember friends who have come back from wars in recent memory and retell the vivid stories of things they cannot unsee.
I remember you and your sacrifice and honor your mother for letting you go.