This year I’m dedicating my Remembrance Day post to the memory of a truly lovely man, R.H., for whom I had the immense pleasure of being a health care provider for many years. It’s also in memory of Uncle Harold, my dad’s younger brother, who died in August of this year. Both were in the R.C.A.F., stationed in England at the same time, and both flew many, many missions as navigators in Lancaster bombers.
One of the last things that I did for R. was to take in my copy of High Flight, and read it for him, at his request. It had always been a favourite poem anyway, but since that day, it has also served as a reminder of a very special man. If we’re lucky, we encounter a few such special people throughout our lives, who make us a better person for having known them.
Oh! I have slipped the surly bonds of earth
And danced the skies on laughter-silvered wings;
Sunward I’ve climbed, and joined the tumbling mirth
Of sun-split clouds – and done a hundred things
You have not dreamed of – wheeled and soared and swung
High in the sunlit silence. Hov’ring there
I’ve chased the shouting wind along, and flung
My eager craft through footless halls of air.
Up, up the long delirious, burning blue,
I’ve topped the windswept heights with easy grace
Where never lark, or even eagle flew –
And, while with silent lifting mind I’ve trod
The high untresspassed sanctity of space,
Put out my hand and touched the face of God.
Pilot Officer Gillespie Magee
No 412 squadron, RCAF
Killed 11 December 1941
During the 1980s, I also had the enormous privilege of caring for several veterans of World War I. I will never forget their stories of their experiences, and feel so honoured to have heard them first hand.
To all of these men, and to all of those men and women who served King and Country in both wars, thank you. To all those who have worn a Canadian uniform since 1945, thank you.