What is a remembrance day?
By: Marie Barakat
10 November 09

For most people this day comes once a year. For most people, we wait until the 11th of November before we pause, breathe, close our eyes and take a moment to remember. For most people, we wear red poppies and read poems of remembrance only today. For most people, we think of our soldiers only today. For some of us, this day lasts all year round. For some of us, we think of our soldiers every time we sit down for dinner, every time we say a prayer, every time we celebrate a birthday, every time we close our eyes to sleep. Every time we inhale—we’re thinking of our soldiers. Those same soldiers who once upon a time took an oath of devotion and ultimately sacrificed their lives for their countries, their beliefs, their families—for people like you, for people like me, so that we may live in peace and in freedom.

Growing up in Canada, the routine of celebrating Remembrance Day became completely casual. It was a moment of silence for our fallen soldiers, a moment of honour, a moment of thanks. Until this year, the poppy symbolized groups of random soldiers, groups of random lives and random wars and random battles. Until this year, today was just another day. And now, I remember one soldier in particular. I remember my soul mate, my other half, my very best friend, my boyfriend, my soldier—Marc Diab. With him, I now remember all soldiers, I place names to those random faces and I think of them and of their families. I think of the soldiers who lost their fight, those who continue to fight, and those who will be fighting in their future.

To say that Marc is my world is an understatement. And to try and explain how that same world crumbled when Marc was killed in Afghanistan on March 8th of this year, just two weeks before he was supposed to come home, would be impossible. I woke up that day knowing that he would be leaving on an operation as he told me the night before. So I did what I did every morning for the previous six months. I checked the news in Afghanistan and there was nothing out of the ordinary, I felt relieved that Marc would be fine. But for some reason, I felt uneasy, I felt a weight on my chest—something that told me something bad was about to happen. It wasn’t long before these feelings were confirmed—my parents then told me, what I know is the hardest thing any parent would ever have to tell their child, they told me that Marc was killed that morning. I watched as they struggled through the words, trying to tell me what had happened, that he was dead, that he would not be coming back for me like he had promised.

I would never wish that very moment on any one else, and my attempt to explain those feelings would go in vain. That moment, and most of the next while is just a big blur to me. The events that followed now feel like a movie playing on repeat in my mind—pausing and playing at random times. Film clips re-arranging themselves in levels of grief, levels of despair. Some even disappearing altogether.

A few days later, we drove to Trenton to welcome Marc home. It was a difficult trip for everyone, but once we all arrived and the doors of the plane opened and Marc was lifted out of the plane, the sun shone over the crowds and immediately gave us all the strength we needed to get through this. The drive home was beautiful—we were a convoy of many, many cars, each with photos of Marc taped to the dashboards, to the hoods and trunks of cars. While driving along the highway of heroes, people would get out of their cars and stop to salute as we passed. On top of every bridge we passed, we were saluted by hundreds of people waiting in the freezing cold, waving photos, flags and flowers in Marc’s memory. Later that week, the church was filled to each corner with his friends, family, fellow soldiers, the mayor and people whom had never even met him. It was through the support and love of our community that we were able to make it through this difficult time, and it truly showed how many lives were touched and honoured by Marc’s sacrifice.

This year I will wear the poppy, because I understand what it means to me and to my country, I will wear it to honour, remember and show how proud I am of our soldiers, and of Marc. Today the poppy I wear means so much more then just a red flower, the moment of silence is more then just two minutes without talking, and a Canadian soldier is so much more then just a man with a rifle.

I can tell you about Marc for hours—I can tell you that he was dedicated, loving, enthusiastic, humble, determined, caring and smart. I can tell you all of these things and more. I can tell you that when asked to describe him in one sentence, my answer was simple, he was half man, half amazing. Marc embodied dedication, to his family life, social life and to his work. Marc’s personal mission was to ensure happiness all around him and would go out of his way, even from the depths of Afghanistan to ensure that we were happy, that we were okay.

Our fallen soldiers worked here at home and abroad for the benefit of Canada and of it’s citizens. They lived selflessly to protect others, to help us, heal us, and relieve our suffering. I applaud the support of Ontarians—in particular, the visual displays of affection and tribute along the Highway of Heroes. Today we pay tribute to those who gave their lives so others could know hope and opportunity, and we humbly thank their loved ones for their sacrifice. Living in peace has not made us forget how to honour their service or sacrifice—it has made us honour them that much more.

There is no statute of limitations on grief. There is no doctrine that says you can be sad for 3 months, and resume life as normal any time after. There is nothing that says it’s okay to turn away from his photos, his bedroom, his home. There is no one to tell you how long the pain lasts and how bad it feels. Nothing that says how long before life will feel normal again. There is nothing that reminds you to breathe, to eat, to sleep. Nothing that stops you from re-reading old letters, hanging on to old pictures, sitting in old memories. Nothing that says it’s okay to measure their time gone the way we once measured birthdays. There is nothing that erases the sorrow of going to our church in a black dress for his funeral, instead of a big white dress for our wedding. Nothing that erases the pain of taking a limo to pick up his coffin instead of my groom. There is no statute of limitations on grief—they say it exists in five stages. But grief is one constant stage, of sorrow, and longing. On days like today, we all share in one common grief. Grief for the losses of strangers, of men and women, of our soldiers—our peacekeepers.

Each one of us is born for a specific reason and purpose, and each one of us will die when we have accomplished whatever was to be accomplished. The in-between depends on our willingness to make the best of every day, of every moment, of every opportunity.

Marc was born to be a soldier, he knew this too. He accomplished what God had initially set him out to do, and now he maintains guard alongside God in heaven. Waiting, as soldiers do, until finally they’re reunited once again with those they left behind. We use this day to remember our fallen soldiers, our risen angels—and on this day, as every other, we remember Marc Diab, and every other soldier, both dead and alive, fighting for their nation, for their families, and for our freedom.