Tomorrow, I will watch the old men from the British legion lay their wreath on the memorial stone and wonder what they are remembering.
Each year the numbers attending Remembrance Day services seems to be increasing. In fact at All Saints, along with Christmas, Easter and Mothering Sunday, Remembrance is the service when most of the village turns out.
Why? What is going on here? It must be more than keeping a promise made long ago.
We are fairly close to some army barracks here, so there are some folks who have friends and relations away in war torn places. I can see the need to remember them. The photos on the front of today’s papers of the poppy crosses with the pictures of the 229 and 179 that have died on active service in Afghanistan and Iraq just make me angry at the waste of such young lives. I don’t want you to misunderstand me, I am hugely grateful that there are young men and women today willing to go out to far flung places on our behalf in the pursuance of peace and I will be holding them and their families before God on Sunday.
It seems to me that Remembrance Sunday is changing and filling the slot that All Souls once had on the church calendar. If you say to people today, All Souls, they go ‘what’s that?’ We don’t do death very well in this country. In fact it is hidden away because most people die behind a curtain in a hospital bed. We don’t give people enough space to grieve or any rituals in which to cope. I think that there is something inside people that needs others to acknowledge that they have lost someone and are hurting. It is why shrines of flowers appear on roadsides at an accident spots. It is why when someone famous such as Princess Diana or Michael Jackson die, there is a public outpouring of grief and rituals of candle lighting and signing of books of condolence. Even though we don’t know them personally they become a proxy for our grief.
On some level I think Remembrance Services is working in that way. We have lost touch with the rituals of All Souls Day and the lighting of candles and the remembering of the dead, instead this has become focused on Remembrance services.
So, this Sunday I will watch and wonder and try to hold before God all those losses that those who are present long to have acknowledged in some way.