Sometimes life places one thing in bold contrast to another, a juxtaposition that imprints meaning on the parts that they may not have had alone.
On September 11th, 2001, as the World Trade Center fell, I was volunteering in the paediatric oncology clinic at my local hospital. With no TVs and radios, before the days of internet in our pockets, reports filtered down to us in the basement waiting room in pieces. The towers had fallen. Something had happened at the Pentagon. Lives had been lost.
Lives had been lost. I looked around me. Parents weary and worried. Children with shining scalps and ports implanted in their skin, waiting for chemo that would make them sick to maybe make them better, waiting on test results and medical charts that would chart their future. But children smiling, as children do. Fourteen years later and I still can't put into words how it felt to view the events of 9/11 from the sidelines of that basement battleground, although I think we're all still at a loss for words about that day, no matter where we stood.
This morning, on Remembrance Day, I sat in my counsellor's office and was stopped mid-sentence, words of my worries cut short, by an announcement on the hospital PA system noting that it was time for a moment of silence and reflection. We paused and sat in the quiet, together but alone with our thoughts. And after the minute had passed, our conversation resumed. It felt weird. There are people out there now, literally right now, fighting wars and risking their lives for me and so that others less fortunate than me can feel safe. Just to feel safe. And I was sitting there talking about problems that suddenly seemed so petty and small compared to what they are facing and what others have faced before them.
I reminded myself that my problems are not petty. I know full well that you can't logic your way out of depression and I know that these small problems can snowball and take me down. And have done. I decided to extend myself a bit of kindness. But still. Perspective is good, and that moment of silence and the moments that followed moved me, as the sacrifices of those soldiers stood in stark contrast to my own battle. It made me want to fight harder to get out of my head and outside of those hospital walls and into the world where so many opportunities are waiting for me, for all of us, because of their sacrifices.
Sometimes life places one thing in bold contrast to another. Loss of life in noise up high and the fight for it in the quiet below. The personal battles of the mind and the battles fought by our soldiers on another kind of shaky ground. War. And peace. One imprinting meaning on the other.
This was not the post I planned for today, but this is the post I felt I needed to write because that was not what they planned for their lives, but it was the fight they needed to fight. And this is still that world and there are still those who spend their lives fighting for ours. Fighting so I can sit in my counsellor's office and get her help with my sometimes comparatively benign worries. Fighting so those kids in the oncology clinic can have access to what they need to fight their own fight, so that they can grow up in a safe world. Fighting so my own child can sit peacefully in a classroom with sun shining on her face making a Remembrance Day craft while not really knowing what war is all about.
So we set aside our plans for just one day, a pitifully meagre offering but an offering nonetheless, to remember those who have fought, who continue to fight, for us to have plans at all.
(Title from "In Flanders Fields" by John McCrae)