There are times when I say my prayers and thank God that I live in peacetimes. That I am not worried that bombs will rain down on our heads in the night, that I will not have to gather my babies up from their beds and rush for the relative safety of a bombshelter, or the crowded Underground. That I don’t have to make that unspeakable choice to either keep my children with me in a blitz-targeted city, or pack their bags and send them on a train, on their own, to some stranger I’ve never met — who may be good or bad, kind or cruel — in order to gain the safety of the countryside.
I thank God that I am not peeping out my window, terrified, wondering when the storm of war will appear over the hill, come rolling down my road to envelope me, my home, everything I love. I am grateful that I don’t have to worry about wandering bands of men and boys who are feeling the thrill of power for the first time, the menace of their guns, the dominance of their sex.
And though the economy is tough right now, I am grateful that there is food aplenty, fuel for the house and the car, no blackouts, no shortages. It’s been hard to get by lately, with M’s short hours, and maybe it was a silly time to start my little business, but it’s nothing like it would be in wartimes. During wartimes, life is really hard.
Today the sun is shining in a blazing blue sky, and the birds have been singing happily — a little too loudly — outside my window. Traffic is quiet because it’s a three-day weekend, the girls are playing together, and my parents will be coming round later for a barbeque. The fridge is already full to bursting in preparation. The news in my news-stream is the usual… mundane… nothing interesting.
Thank God for peacetimes. Thank God for peacetimes!
And then I remember — with a little surprise — that these are not peacetimes. We are at war! And all the fighting and the shooting and the chaos that I fear is going on right now. There are soldiers fighting — scrambing, sweating, filled with adrenaline and fear — and enemies to be fought. There are civilians caught in the crossfire, mothers reaching out in the dust and rubble for their terrified children. There are shortages and hunger, homes destroyed, lives destroyed… soldiers injured, dying… and their families back home.
It’s so easy to forget — here amongst our everyday lives, our normal lives. It’s on the news, but who is really watching the news? And who can keep up? Another bomb… another marketplace or military column… We hardly look up from our dinners: Where was it? Didn’t catch it… Another mouthful, mmmmm dinner is good tonight.
I had forgotten. I am shamed to realise I had forgotten we are at war. I was thanking God for the peace while others were fighting and dying, and ducking in the crossfire. And I was lying in my quiet bed, in the quiet dark, safe and warm, saying my prayers and then drifting to sleep.
This Memorial Day, let me wake a little, and remember the soldiers who are deployed and their families who are desperate for them to come home. Let me remember the soldiers who have died, and pray strength for those left grieving them. Let me pause and think of the civilians caught in the indiscriminate cruelty of war, the mothers and fathers terrified for their children… or who have lost them. Let me remember even our enemies, that there can be an end to this, and mercy for us all.
Most of all, let me remember how easy it is to forget, and so not to forget again. There is little that I can do to change or end this war, but this Memorial Day, let me realise that what I can do is to not forget.