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Tending the Light

1.Narrator: Today we try to remember. It is easy to forget; to remember takes some effort. The writers whose words we hear today knew that. Our gospel speaks of tending the light, of being ready. In the Parliament buildings in the Peace Tower, there is a book of remembrance whose pages are turned each day. There is also a perpetual flame; a light of remembrance and prayer for peace, that is tended carefully.

As we remember today. let us commit ourselves to tend to light of God’s love, God’s compassion, God’s peace, God’s healing. For we know that we are formed by what we remember.

Memories of a British child: read by Margaret Vost
Symbol: Teddy Bear

Narrator: Let us remember along with Enid Kirkhope who was a child in England during the war.

Reading: (Margaret) I was 5 years old in 1939 when I realized something was wrong, as I watched my dad dig a deep, square hole in our back yard. He built an Anderson Shelter – an arch of corrugated metal, sunk into the ground and covered with the excavated soil.

My dad was one of the first to enlist in the RAF and he was sent north for training. I remember my mother’s tears. It must have been soon after that that the Blitz began. Plymouth was a strategic naval port, so, like London and Southampton it was leveled!

On clear moonlit nights the bomber’s crossed the channel. The warning sirens wailed. My mother would drag me from my bed, take me outside, and down into the damp, dark shelter. We crouched there with a neighbour, and listened to absolute mayhem overhead.

The searchlights circled to pick out the bombers, and the anti-aircraft guns fired. Bombs whistled down, the explosions coming in a line towards you – or thankfully – away from you. We heard buildings crumble…. glass shatter…..the shouts…the screams…

When the all clear sounded we would go back to the house and I would be put to bed – But I’m sure my mother did not sleep. This continued for many nights.

One night the inevitable happened, and a bomb landed in the street directly in front of our shop. It didn’t explode, but it could have a delayed action.

The wardens called us out, and I have a very clear memory of edging around the crater, knowing that a pebble knocked in, could explode the bomb. The bomb was detonated while we were in a shelter, but my mother was never allowed back into the house to claim anything.

There was a train journey north in pitch darkness, because of the blackout, and we were billeted in a farmhouse in north Devon. The countryside was beautiful! Evacuees were placed with families according to how many rooms were in the house. No one had any choice. We heard that some situations were intolerable where children were taken from parents and thrust into families that did not want them to be there. Some were treated very badly.

My mother’s hair began to fall out. It was years later before she told me of the night our street was bombed, when she saw the bodies of neighours being pulled from the rubble and being loaded onto dust carts!. She knew of friends getting the dreaded telegrams Regret to inform you…Missing in action. She knew of laden troopships being torpedoed….

One day I was playing in some leaves outside when a handsome man in uniform came towards me… My dad. He had been given compassionate leave before being sent to India and then Burma.

I did not see him again for six years, but that time he was brown, so thin I did not recognize him, with eyes distracted. A totally changed man.

(Take Teddy Bear to table as I say)

As we remember, let us tend the light of God’s peace.

Memories of a war bride’s child: read by Richard Bastien
Symbol: Wedding photo

Narrator: One part of the story that has often not been told is the story of war brides who followed the men they loved back to Canada after the war ended. There were many happy and sad stories of that experience. Let us hear one:

Richard:
My mother married a Canadian soldier in Croydon England in 1943. When the war was over, my two half brothers, John, two, Alex, nine months, my mother and I set sail for Halifax. We left South Hampton August 6, 1946, on the Queen Mary. It was quite a journey. It was all war brides and their children. The first time we all went down to the dining room, we couldn’t get over the food. I had never seen that much food before in my whole life. The white rolls and real butter, all kinds of meat. Our bread in the war was kind of a grey colour, and everything was rationed.

My mother was very seasick. Each day she had to queue up to wash my brothers’ nappies. She fainted right out twice. I had to look after my brothers a lot. We got all our instructions over a loud speaker. We had to leave our cabin door open a few inches at all times. My little brother could crawl through this opening, so he was really hard to watch. We had to all go on deck with our life jackets on for life boat drills. It was very difficult to carry a child when we all had these big jackets on. One night it was very rough. The water came in the port hole on my bed. I woke up quite wet. I thought I was drowning.

My stepfather met us in Halifax on the 12th of August. We stayed overnight in Halifax. I had grapes for the first time in my nearly fourteen years of life. We started for Charlottetown, P.E.I., very early the next morning. It was hardly daylight. The train was very slow and very hot. When we opened the windows the black smoke came in. My brothers wore very light coloured clothes. When we got to Charlottetown, they were really dirty. When we got to town, it was nearly dark.

We then had a good hour’s drive by taxi over rough dusty roads to my stepfather’s parents’ home in Little Pond. I remember waking up in the morning and looking out the window to discover our house was in the middle of a field. And all the houses I could see were made of wood. They looked so strange. They all had very slanted roofs. I was soon told that was to let the snow fall off. Of course, I hadn’t seen that much snow, so it still didn’t make much sense to me. It did when winter came, though. We had a really bad winter that year. Very cold and a lot of snow.

My mother didn’t like it here. We had no inside plumbing, no electricity, no bus to ride, just dusty roads. She was so lonely with no one to talk with; no one who knew the city she had grown up in. She wanted to go home, but, of course, didn’t have the money to do so. And then my step father started to drink. You could see when it was going to happen. The war memories would start, and his eyes would tear up and he would get very angry. Sometimes when he came home, he’d take it out on her and on us.

It got better as he got older. But it took many years before mother felt at home in Canada. I’m not sure she ever really did.

(Take wedding photo to table as I say)

As we remember, let us tend the light of God’s peace.

Memories of a Sister: read by Noreen Cole
Symbol: picture of young soldier

Narrator: Sharon
Mona Gould, a Canadian poet, was still a child when her brother left to fight in the Second World War. In a poem, “This Was My Brother”, she remembered him….

Noreen:
This was my brother
At Dieppe.
Quietly a hero
Who gave his life
Like a gift.
Withholding nothing.
His youth … his love …
His enjoyment of being alive …
His future, like a book
With half the pages still uncut –

This was my brother
At Dieppe …
The one who built me a doll house
When I was seven,
Complete to the last small picture frame,
Nothing forgotten.
He was awfully good at fixing things,
At stepping into the breach when he was needed.
That’s what he did at Dieppe.

He was needed.

And even death must have been a little ashamed
At his eagerness.

(Take symbol to table as I say)

As we remember, let us tend the light of God’s peace.

Memories of a German woman in the area occupied by Russia
Symbol: white bandages

Introduction: Sharon

Ordinary people on all sides of conflict are caught up in war their governments declare. Innocent civilians get caught in the middle of chaos.

Hear these words from a German mother towards the end of World War 11 in a story told by Ursula Fiedrichson. Remember that the Russians the Germans were fighting against each other in that war.

Reading: Renate Sutherland

I was one of 20 German women who had been taken to a remote farm to wash the dirty laundry of Russian soldiers. We were trying to sleep in piles of straw in the barn, when a thunderous knocking at the door shocked us from our rest. It could only mean danger. I opened the huge door. Two Russian soldiers explained that I was to accompany them. I waved “Goodbye” to my friends. Perhaps I would not live to see them again. I was led through the snow to a small room. A young Russian soldier lay crying on the floor, his right foot bleeding from a rifle shot—self –inflicted, obviously, so he would be sent home. But it also meant he might be shot as a deserter. I found the shell, ordered hot water, cleaned the wound, and bandaged it—I always carried a torn sheet under my coat, in case of emergency. I tried to convince everybody that the shot had been accidental.
The poor youngster cried and cried, and I kissed him.

I was escorted back to my friends. When I opened the door, all my German women friends were kneeling on the cold stone floor—praying for me. In the grey morning, we were awakened by Russian soldiers banging at the door. Outside stood our wagon with a row of packages with bread, food and flour. I was retained by an officer. “Why did you try so hard to save a doomed boy?” he asked. “We are your enemies.”

“My nephew is at the Eastern front,” I answered, “the same age as that innocent kid!”

“I thank you with all my heart!” he said with tears in his eyes. “ I am a father too!
Go home in peace!” And he kissed me.

(Take bandages to table as I say)

As we remember, let us tend the light of God’s peace.

Clarissa Estes: Christine Nicolo
Symbol: candle and barbed wire

Introduction: Sharon

Clarissa Estes, an internationally known poet, psychoanalyst, and author has written The Faithful Gardener, a book of interlocked tales of loss, survival, and fierce rebirth centred around her uncle, a war-ravaged Hungarian peasant farmer and refugee, and about the many other `almost saints’ who made her childhood so remarkable. In this passage, she reflects on the impact of war.

Reader: Christine

For a long time our small house was filled with many people who had just come from war – and back from the dead. They carried hundreds of horrific images and losses that cannot be described in words alone…

What does it mean to live with a war and memories of war inside oneself? It means one lives in two worlds. One looking for hope, the other feeling hopeless. One looking for meaning, the other convinced that the only meaning in life is that there is no meaning in life.

In each of our people who had suffered so greatly, there were two struggling persons. One living the life of the new world, the other running, constantly running, from memories of hell that rose up and gave chase. Ghosts animated by themselves, roused by a click of a door frame, a cat screeching suddenly in the night… a sudden gust of wind causing a curtain to sweep a jar off a table in a shot to the floor… a sudden train whistle and the sound of the long trestle rumbling.

Mundane matters caused terror, tears or revulsion…

There were wars in uncle that made him remember, as he said, `too much’. There were wars between the death of hope and the hope for death, the hope for life and a life of hope.

Sometimes the only cease-fire that held for any length of time had to be negotiated by a treaty forged with much schnapps and much vodka.

(Take candle to table and light it as I say)

As we remember, let us tend the light of God’s peace.

Narrator:

Beyond words,
Beyond the battle,
Beyond the outcry,
Lies silence;
For what words
And what warring
And what anger
Has words enough?
It is sacred this silence;
and holy, this remembering
For only silent remembering
Can carry enough pain
And truth together
To whisper again
“It is enough”

OFFERING: We who give, remember those who gave all that they were, and all that they had. We pray that we might tend the light of God’s love in our time. Bless our giving Use our gifts, that in their sharing, peace may become a reality. We pray through the Prince of Peace. AMEN.

Commmissioning

We go out into the world to live as signs of God’s way in a world that so desparately needs to hear a word of peace; to feel the touch of love; to see the difference that God makes in our lives.

Let us go in the peace and the power of our living God…

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