Very sentimental day today. Remembrance day always means so much for me. As far as I’m concerned, I’ve spent my life in a secret war…and somehow, by some means of good luck and fate, I have made it somewhat onto the other side and survived. I’m still fighting and it’s by no means over, and I have no idea if it ever will be. But I’ve survived this far. I know many who didn’t, witnessed the fall of several, held some whilst they took their last breath, screamed with heartbreak as my babies were taken from me too soon…and know this happens all over the world. Once a year I allow myself to join the rest of the real world with a silent pause to honour those who fight everywhere, some in wars the world knows about….some in secret wars. Every year on Remembrance Day I join the world and honour the soldiers…
Sometimes, I hide away from Remembrance Services. I’m afraid I will cry, or “go under” (out of it) and that I’ll look stupid. How can I explain to strangers in an audience why I’m affected so? Somehow this year it seemed easier to show my face. To not live behind a mask. Perhaps speaking out has helped remove the stigma, or perhaps my memories have helped me realise the children deserve to be honoured and remembered properly. Perhaps it’s that for a while now I’ve been saying I need to do some kind of service or memorial for them, but not known how to…and Remembrance Day fits best. Perhaps it’s that now I’m safer, the true horror of what still continues is more shocking for me. I don’t know. Perhaps it’s a mix of all the above, and the safe knowledge that my tears won’t be mocked – I’m surrounded by friends who understand and just hold my hand whilst I weep.
Either way, this weekend I’m not hiding or shying away from stuff which may trigger grief. Today I’m not even allowing grief in. Today is about honouring them.
Last night I went to a Remembrance concert. I had been in two minds – not least simply due to the triggers. I would be mortified if I went into a flashback during a performance. But I knew I needed to do this, somehow. I needed to listen to the music and pay my respects to the children, to say goodbye solidly. To hold my own memorial/remembrance service in my heart for the children, so that the grief can stop gnawing away at me internally. Last night, I let myself feel the grief. The music was *stunning*. The concert was done under candlelight so I couldn’t see the performers well, which added to the effect – I spent the entire concert watching the flame of the candle in front of me, and letting the blend of music wash over me. The bittersweet mood of the music matched that of the memories dancing in my mind, as my eyes watched the flickering flame. It was exceptionally moving, and it wasn’t long before I was crying gently and silently. At first I felt embarrassed, but touched my friend’s arm. She held my hand reassuringly, and so I continued to watch the gentle flame, and just let the grief release itself.
Watching the memories, hearing the screams and remembering vividly the sensation of a child pressing into my chest….whilst also simultaneously hearing the most stunning music… it moved me. The performers seemed to feel the music – it was more than just notes, and the effect of everything combined allowed me to grieve silently, and gently. It wasn’t overwhelming pain. Rather a space in which to “let go” and remember them…
What I wanted to do – as the memories flashed through my head and I re-lived the horror and saw again the terrified eyes of children, or the weak rising and falling of a tiny chest in it’s final moments – was to cry my eyes out loudly. I could feel it locking into my neck as I forced myself to keep my crying as near to invisible as possible. This wasn’t the right place for a full on cry-athon. It was a place to be quiet and reflective, to allow myself to feel but not to lose focus on the music. The music kept me grounded, and the beauty of it kept me able to grieve and remember in a gentler way than what it has recently been. I wanted to thank the performers, but didn’t really know how or what to say, so can only hope maybe one of them will read this and realise how much their performance meant to me and how much it helped me last night. Thank you all for your moving performance…
One of the readings was about soldiers coming home from the war, but not being the same. I can whole-heartedly empathise with this. The more I go through recovery, the more I realise the absolute horror of what I and others have lived through, the more I realise that on more than one occasion I should have died and by some miraculous means I survived…the more this happens, the more I change. I will never be the person I was even a year ago. I don’t find that a bad thing, necessarily, but I do grieve somewhat for the person I once was – for I didn’t have chance to discover who she was underneath the trauma and survival instinct. With each new memory, I change. The scars may fade but they will never leave. I will never see or hear certain things in the same way again. My whole life plan has changed dramatically – for the better, granted, but changed nonetheless. I feel somehow much older at times than my actual age. Weary. I am learning how to live in the normal world *with* my feelings, rather than bottling them. I am learning how to live with such tremendous grief and memories of horror, and trauma. Living with that can happen, but will change me. I will not be the same. I’ve lived through a hideous war and witnessed extreme horror. Of course it has changed me. I would be more frightened if it hadn’t…
But at least I am still here and still able to go through change, which is a blessing others never experienced.
As I watched the flame last night, gently beating and lulling me, a tragically sad thought occurred to me. Did those who fell ever know that there’d be someone able to remember, grieve and honour them? I know a handful knew I’d escaped enough to tell their story. But the majority? Did they know? I doubt it. I realised they probably fell and believed themselves to be forgotten souls…just one more in the system un-acknowledged and not honoured or remembered. How could they have known that years later I would be sitting in a church, at a remembrance concert, listening to beautiful music and crying gently for them….for even those I never met? Some fell having never known what a hug is. A life mostly full of torture and misery. What life is that for any child? To fall forgotten…to have lived secretly…and have only known pain. That moment was when the tears really came; when that realisation hit me.
So I ask you all to take a moment and think of the children in our world who fall in wars that are not theirs to fight in. Those in ritual abuse, those in poverty, those in political wars….everywhere, globally, there are children fighting to survive in a war that wasn’t their creation. How many of them are honoured and remembered for the heroic soldiers that they are? Please take a moment with me and let’s honour them as they deserve to be. Let’s make sure their deaths were not ever in vain, because we recognise them even if we never knew them. Only by this can we can hope to ever put a stop to this madness…. today I don’t feel grief, I feel grateful that the world has a chance to honour them all…
And oh child, I see you fall,
Your spirit tired, your body done,
I run to you, curled soft; a ball,
The cruel war you’re in has now won.
I feel my scream, locked in my chest
I’ll scream when you can sleep,
For now this last moment shall be your best
You’ll feel love as I gently weep.
I hold you close, cradle you near
Hush your weak whimpers, and sing
“Be still now, my sweet, my dear,
Let the angel take you in Her wing.”
Your tiny fingers clasp my thumb,
My heartbeat soothes your pain,
I feel you relax, your hurt is numb
Life’s no longer a cruel strain.
“It’s okay, you can go to sleep..
Lay still and safe in my arms,”
I whisper soft, my own pain deep
That I failed to save you from harm.
Rise and fall, slow and slow,
So gentle, you close your eyes.
The breeze kisses away your woe
At last your face calms, and lies.
No pain no, no tears from you,
You’re silent, asleep…away,
Tiny child, I’ll still cradle you
For now and every other day.
Your soul shall remain inside my heart,
Each year I will cry for your pain,
Each year I will honour your incredible part,
Your strength and smiles again.
The daisy lay pink, from where you lay
Stained from the innocence stole,
Oh pink daisy, my heart gave way
The grief took me captive, and whole.
Pink daisy, your symbol is captivating; strong,
So beautifully sweet yet sad.
For you I sing a gentle song,
To take away some of what is so mad.
Today let’s remember the children,
Let’s rejoice as we can honour them,
Let’s sing of the stained pink daisy,
Tainted innocence, a beauty condemned.