Mary dropped her rag into the bucket of sudsy water. With the back of her hand, she wiped the sweat off her forehead and rubbed it against her apron. She turned to grab the frayed towel from the porch balustrade just in time to see Edith run into the house across the street, slamming the door behind her. That’s what she always did when any soldiers appeared at the end of their street.
And there was the staff car, parked at the corner. Two army officers emerged, nodded to the passing ice truck and began walking, purposefully checking each house number as they passed. Still clutching her towel, Mary watched them approach and turn down her pathway.
She felt her knees begin to buckle, but she held her ground.
“Mrs. Campbell?” the captain asked.
“We are sorry to inform you …”
Mary listened, her heart slowly breaking. She thanked the men, accepted the envelope and stuffed it into her apron pocket. She resumed washing her windows.
Her John was gone, lying somewhere in Normandy in an unmarked grave. Dawdling over the loss would not bring him back. She had work to do and four youngsters to feed. And now it was all up to her.
John was a part of the Canadian regiment that invaded Normandy on June 6, 1944. The regiment not only landed, but fought village to village, hand to hand, moving six miles inland by the end of the first day. John was one of the many who died and lay buried in those fields.
I’m currently sitting in my easy-chair, wrapped in a cozy fleece throw. An east wind is harping mournfully outside and misty rains are adding their own somber note to the day. It’s November, the month red poppies appear on coat lapels. The media floods us with stories from the two world wars describing the personal sacrifices both on the front lines and back home. On November 11th, we all pause for a moment of silence to honour and remember the men and women who served and continue to serve our country in the line of duty.
During this pandemic, are we not fighting a global war? Our enemy is not another foreign country, but rather a stealth-like, destructive virus that kills and maims without borders. Are the frontline armies not made up of the researchers, scientists, health-care workers and thousands of others worldwide who are treating the ill and developing and manufacturing therapeutics that will help us combat this disease? As for those of us remaining on the home front, have we not for the most part stepped up and done our part to support their efforts?
I believe we have, but human nature being what it is, many of us have developed ‘COVID fatigue’ over time. Everyone reacts differently. Whenever I get frustrated with following the restrictions recommended or imposed upon our lives, I remind myself of the sacrifices made and hardships endured for years during the two world wars. It helps me refocus, stop complaining, and be thankful for all that we are able to do instead.
I will pause this Remembrance Day and in addition to honouring those who served fighting for our country, I will quietly honour all those good people who have perished from Covid-19 and the selfless warriors working to find treatments and vaccines for us all. Together we will succeed.
Post Script: I was inspired to write the fictional story about Mary and John after hearing my friend’s family history from the same period. The circumstances surrounding John’s death remain factual.