Tuesday, November 11, 2014

Lest We Forget

In late spring, 2014,
Terry and I visited 
Paris, France.

It was my first trip
to La Ville-LumiĆ©re.

We saw many wonderful sights,
but I stumbled across one that affected me deeply.

In our visit to 
Notre Dame de Paris,
I rounded a corner 
and unexpectedly saw
a memorial tablet to 
the British Empire dead 
of the First World War.

Notre Dame Cathedral, Paris

It struck me just how much 
the people of France and Britain 
remember and honor 
the war deaths of service members
from the Empire and its Dominions:
The United Kingdom, India, Canada,
Australia, South Africa, 
New Zealand, and Newfoundland.

Reading the words 
Canada and Newfoundland
in that magnificent French cathedral
and knowing it honored 
Canada's dead
and those of Newfoundland 
moved me to tears.

In a moment it made history vividly real.
Among these one million dead 
are members of my family 
I know only from old photographs. 

As we explored Paris and London 
we found many moving memorials 
to the military service dead and injured
of too many wars and conflicts;
and everywhere red, red poppies.

Poppies of Notre Dame Cathedral

The poppy, Papaver rhoeas, 
has become a symbol of remembrance
for soldiers who died in war.

Canadian physician 
Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae
inspired this symbolism 
in a simple, but profound poem 
he wrote during World War I.

To stand in the 
hush and shadow
of this sacred space,
see poppies,
touch stone,
and remember
In Flanders Fields
is to feel powerfully
what sacrifice
death in war is. 

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields . . .
John McCrae

Stained Glass Window
Notre Dame de Paris

Life is precious and fleeting,
and we must never forget 
the men and women
who served and died
to preserve our freedom.


  1. What a beautiful and moving post. It's excellent. I love the photos, too.


    1. Thank you, Janie! I'm back on-line again and will be catching up on your blog shortly!

  2. A beautiful post! Yes, we must never forget these women and men.

    1. Thanks, Martha! I often think how fortunate I am because of the sacrifices of so many wonderful people who served in our Canadian and Commonwealth forces ~ not to forget those who served in the USA.

  3. A lovely post and tribute. Lest we forget.

  4. What a beautiful post. Your quote from Flander's Fields gave me goose bumps… or, is it the cold?!
    Stay warm and safe!

    1. Thanks, Dreaming! That poem has always moved me profoundly. Even as a young child, I understood the sacrifice of of love, beauty, and life that our military service dead made for we who lived or came after them.

      And, yes, I'm hugging my space heater which is barely beating back the cold. I may not even go out and pick up the newspaper. You stay warm and safe too!

  5. Never forget indeed, wouldn't have today what we do if it weren't for the many who fought.

  6. You are so right, Pat! Have a good one!

  7. Powerful Louise - hugs Barb

  8. 1 million dead. Unimaginable.
    My Dad was a veteran, and he died on Veterans Day.

    1. It is hard to imagine, Terry. Have you seen pictures of the poppy exhibit at the Tower of London (UK) where ceramic poppies stand for the British and Colonial soldiers killed in WW1? I'm so sad to hear that your father died on Veterans Day. But in a way, it's appropriate because that is the day people truly stop and think about all that our veterans have done for our country and us.

  9. Nice. Looks like your visit was amazing. The photographs are just stunning.

    1. Thank you for your kind comment, Lady Lilith! Have a good one!

  10. We shouldn't ever forget.
    My father is also a Veteran.

    1. I'm sure, like me, you are proud of your father's service, Alex. I admire the people who stepped up and served for our countries. Take care!

  11. Thank you Louise, this really gives me a better understanding and a feeling, a connected feeling moreso because my uncle is buried over there, away over there. Yes, my father has always been foremost in my mind but the people who sacrificed their lives and are buried so many miles away to be forgotten really is hard to take. Not many, if any people in my family show interest so I stumble along with my wee bit of info and put it all in order for my world.


    1. Hi, Ron! The people in France and the United Kingdom have not forgotten the foreign servicemen buried in their countries. Many large churches and cathedrals around France have these memorials to honor the Commonwealth soldiers who are buried in France. And London is full of memorials for Commonwealth soldiers of many conflicts. Canada has a beautiful fountain in honor of its servicemen and servicewomen very close to Buckingham Palace. I was really impacted by the memorials and how much they meant to me. You can't change other people in your family, but you can get a lot of satisfaction by putting it in order for yourself. And I, for one, am fascinated by your father's story, even if it had a tragic ending. He flew with courage and honor. Take care, my friend!

  12. Louise, this is the most heartfelt post I have seen lately. I like how you 'wrapped' us in the history and the photos all the while holding our hand, so to speak, and guiding us through this massive cathedral.

    1. Thank you for the lovely comment, Jim! Notre Dame de Paris is massive and can feel almost overwhelming. But then it has all these nooks and crannies containing things like the memorial and poppies that feel small, powerful, and intimate. The open pane in the stained glass window reminded me of the spirit line in woven Navajo art that allowed the creative spirit of the weaver to escape and weave another piece. I felt like my spirit could fly through that window right up to heaven. Have a great evening!


Thank you for your comments! I appreciate them very much.