Remembering to Honour Those Who Gave Their All

When the pandemic put a pause on gathering for Remembrance Day ceremonies, Deb Sandau found a new way to honour those who lost their lives.

For many of us during the pandemic, the world was turned upside down and we completely changed our notion of what was “normal.” Many felt alone or possibly forgotten, while others suffered loss. Not being able to touch or talk to our loved ones face-to-face was so difficult.

All that pain and upheaval made me think of last Remembrance Day and the changes that were put in place. For 20 years, I’d gathered outside with others to quietly reflect on the sacrifices made by so many, and show gratitude for their gift of freedom to us all.

I cherished being able to see, and shake the hands of those who served and are still serving to keep us safe. The energy in these crowds was amazing. We were all there to honour, remember and stand together in reflection of what was sacrificed for us. Regardless of the weather, I wanted to be there and show my gratitude and support. I always thought that if those who served could endure all sorts of weather and situations, the least I could do was bundle up if need be and stand for 45 minutes to honour them. It was a small gesture on my part but one that I felt was important.

The year 2020 changed those plans and I was really upset at not being able to gather downtown at the cenotaph. This lack of gathering affected me more than any other inability to get together with anyone. It made me start to think of other ways that I could still honour those who served.

The isolation we were all feeling gave me a small glimpse into what they must have felt, being away from home and those they held dear. They were put in unfamiliar places facing an uncertain outcome and forced to carry on. Did they feel forgotten? I am sure they must have. Were they unsure of any positive outcome? I bet they were. Still, no matter what they felt, they stayed the course and persevered through some of the most difficult moments of their lives. I would like to think that they held onto the hope they would see their loved ones again. If they had to sacrifice their lives, it would be so they could help those they loved to live and be free and secure.

I wanted to find a new way of honouring those who lost their lives. I requested a map for the placement of soldiers in the Red Deer Cemetery, which is close to my home. I drove there with my husband, Dave, and we walked through the fresh snow to the rows of those who gave their lives and placed a poppy on as many of the headstones as we could.

Standing there gazing at those rows of graves, the sun peeking through the trees, we held our own moment of silence for them. I read their names, and I said thank you to each of them. There was no music, no speeches, no mournful trumpet calling out. Just us, taking a quiet moment to say thank you for your service, you are not forgotten, you are loved.

In a world that seems so changed now, hold onto what you can. Show your love and support to all. Remember that you are not alone. There is someone who loves you and wants you to be well. Together we will continue to move past this time and enjoy gathering and celebrating being able to hug, sing and cheer again.

On November 11, I hope you are able to take a moment to reflect on those who fought for us and honour their memory, whether you knew them or not. They gave the ultimate sacrifice for us all and they deserve to never be forgotten.

Next, check out these 30+ powerful true stories of Canadian veterans to read for Remembrance Day.

Originally Published in Our Canada