How Many Remain?
Another Remembrance Day Sunday Service has come and passed, another progression of seasons that bear witness to the greatness and the folly of our conceit. The day seemed to sneak up with hardly any notice, concealed perhaps beneath the unusually warm weather of this early November rather than the frosty chill that usually precedes it. Maybe it was nature’s violence of the past summer that distracted us from the distant events that normally are the focus of this occasion. This year’s church service was on November 6th, five days before the actual observance and so the lead-up from the first of the month was relatively short. There were a mere 5 days for the veterans to sow their poppies before the Sunday services were delivered. Their efforts continue up until the 11th, but there is a strained sense to these days. Commuters are rushing by the veterans holding out their remembrances. The usual line-ups are smaller and there is a bewildered sense of anticlimax in the air. November 11th will still be marked at cenotaphs and memorials, but some of the emotional punch has been stolen by a fluke of the calendar. Next year the situation grows worse with a full Sunday through Saturday between pulpit and cenotaph. But in 2007, the stars and the planets align as the 11th day of the 11th month falls on the Sunday Sabbath. And then how many will remain to march to the drum that led them so long ago? Not many, I think.
I’m old enough to recall the passing of the last Union soldier of the Civil War in 1956 and while the title of last Confederate soldier is debated, there are at least two contenders for 1959. It is safe to say that opportunities for personal interviews have come to an end.
That same milestone has come and gone for those who saw service in the First World War, the last of the last, and the survivors of the Second World War are hard on their heels.