Forget Me Not

“Maya's Grandad – Show and Tell.” Banner headline, a cluster of small, eager heads. Last time we went to England, our granddaughter asked her grandfather to take his father's war medals and decorations and explain them to her class. Hands waved, questions tumbled out. So many also had family histories of the war.
He explained the medals, the actions (largely naval convoys), the battles (including sinking the Bismark), how his father commanded a ship on battle at age 27. Showed pictures of a very young man in uniform, first cradling a baby, then bouncing his toddler son on his shoulders.

“The last time I saw my Dad,” he says simply. His father, who he can't remember, was killed before he was two. Then his widowed mother at Buckingham Palace, receiving her husband's decoration.

“You must be very proud of him,” the King said. Huge pride, but empty arms.

Telling a friend last night, it all came back: the bleak exhaustion, scarcity, endurance and wry humour. So different from today, but the childhood training is still there, like a corset, holding me up in bad times. I saw it in action recently with a newly widowed friend. She summoned from somewhere deep within, almost on automatic pilot, the grit to pick herself up each day and carry on. From where? I wondered. From her wartime English childhood.

It is a huge strength to know that one does survive – somehow. I have seen it in the broken houses, dusty bricks spattered with resilient wild flowers, the people sharing cocoa night after night, sleeping in the subways under London's bombing. When 9/11 struck, I turned to my husband, “We are lucky, because we KNOW you can rebuild.” We know in our bones because we have been there.

Last month our daughter took Maya to HMS Belfast to see the Arctic Star, the medal for all those who served above the Arctic Circle, presented to the ship. Belfast had been heavily involved in the Arctic Convoys, the bleakest, toughest convoys of all. Admiral Lewin's son was presenting his father's medal to the ship in honour of all in memory of all those who served in the convoys and have no grave but the sea. Maya's great-grandfather will also be receiving the Arctic Star

“Grandad,” her voice bubbled down the phone. “Thank you for getting me invited. I want to do it properly. I want to help them remember him.” And another generation carries the legacy of courage forward.


About UntraveledRoads

Fascinated by life, looking for answers to chronic pain and finding unexpected gifts. Interested in people, ideas, healing and humour. I am very happily married with three children and a kitten. As English born immigrants to Canada, we have family spread overseas, a daughter in South Africa and one in England. We also run a charity in South Africa to educate black, rural South African Women. Our first girl from a rural township has just graduated as an accountant from Johannesburg University and got a good job in a bank.
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4 Responses to Forget Me Not

  1. A wonderful, uplifting, and heart- warming story, Jane!

  2. tersiaburger says:

    Poignant post. THANK YOU!!!!

  3. Paul Smith says:

    Beautiful. What treasures our memories are!
    Thank you for sharing yours.

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