It is real

Soldiers, war, veterans, the military – all of these were abstract concepts growing up. They were pieces and parts of other people’s lives, other people’s histories, other people’s experiences.

Sure, our Pepere, our mother’s dad, served in the Navy. And yes, our Avô, our father’s dad served in the army. But that was ages ago, long before our parents were married and before any of us were twinkles in eyes (EW).

It wasn’t talked about in great detail. The sepia pictures of them as young men in uniform adorned shelves in their respective living rooms, certificates were brought out sometimes, but the idea, the concept, the reality never ever sunk in for me. It happened then to them. Such a long time ago, such a great distance ago.

In school, Remembrance Day was a time for us to reflect on the sacrifices of others who did heroic things in the name of our freedom that we enjoyed in the present day. History class was filled with complicated explanations of politics that lead to wars that lead to young men and women serving in capacities that are beyond understanding for someone like me who has never had to endure any sort of conflict of that scale. And literature was filled with imagery and emotion and recollection spun in story and portrayed again in a distanced sort of way. Out there, back then, not here, but for us. 

And then I met and fell in love with Ben and his family. His military family. The family where most of the men, the majority, the rule not the exception, had served in some capacity in the army. Overseas and here at home; in active duty and in the reserves; in the middle of a war zone far away and training troops a province away; in the past, now retired and presently, currently as I type; fathers and sons; cousins and brothers. It was no longer an abstract concept. It was real. It is real. 

Nathan - Military

Nathan and crew

When Ben and I got married, his brother-cousin, Nathan, was in the bridal party and almost had to be in his military dress for the ceremony because he may not have had time to get his tux before coming home from training for the wedding. Brother-cousin Olen trained troops in Manitoba and served in other capacities as a reservist. We attended Ben’s cousin, Albert, and his beautiful wife, Becky’s wedding on the military base where Albert was serving (they’re now in Alberta on another base serving in a new capacity). Cousin Chris served in Afghanistan. Both of Ben’s uncles have served and since retired from the military. Both Ben’s brother Todd and his cousin Alex survived basic training and worked as reservists. It is real. 

Albert - Military

Albert and crew

These are not small things, even though they didn’t make headlines and no one is in the middle of a war zone at this very moment. And beyond that there are men and women serving right now in various capacities, in various countries and regions and situations, trying to make a difference, fighting for freedoms that aren’t obviously in danger, helping people shore up against famine, disease, disaster, and political upheaval. Lending hands to the world and serving us at home, away from their families and their homes and their comfort. Dying and living in service. They have been, they are, they will be. And it is real.

Chris - Military

Chris and crew

Remembrance Day means something more for me now than it used to because I have faces and names to people fighting and fought, serving and served, but the thing is, it should have always meant something because for every troop and their family it is real. Even if you don’t agree with the battle being waged, the reasons for the serving, the government that sent them, or even the people that are being served, it is real. 

This year, every year, every day remember that somewhere someone is giving of themselves for a greater something and their loved ones are left behind, sacrificing along with them without them. And that they are not treading a new path. That they are walking in the shoes of all those who fought and served before them. And that they are lighting the way for future service.

It is real. And it is yesterday, today, and tomorrow. Pin your poppy and stand in silence tomorrow, but remember always.

~ Julia

P.S. I know that this video is a Christmas song, but the voices of the troops sending love home makes it real for me over and over again. I pray for the day that they’ll all be home, all at once. I know it’s a fool’s dream, a wish for heaven, essentially, but it’s in my naive heart all the same.

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To all the firsts

Well, it’s been a long weekend and a lot has happened.

It was our Sophie’s Birthday as you all know, so as I do for all family stuff I made my way back to my sisters.

It took a lot to get there, and anything that could go wrong did; however, I made it. I got to come back and see most of my sisters.

My first sister-selfie!

My first sister-selfie!

(Jacqui, I missed you more than words can describe).

I also got to witness some firsts in our family. Sophie got her first two-wheeler bike (with training wheels) and Lillian got her first tricycle (!) and both were bittersweet.

The bikes!

The bikes!

Well, it is a double-edged sword, moving away. On one hand I get a clean slate in a new town, but I’m far away from my family.

I get to go on a new adventure, but have to sacrifice those precious moments with my family, especially those firsts.

I get to start something new and start a new life with Joe, and have cultivated a new sort of family, but I am missing out on some of the new experiences that come with being an aunt.

The real thing I want to tell you all is that I don’t regret moving away, and yeah it does suck the big one that I am missing moments, but Julia said something to me a couple years ago that stuck with me. She said, “I love that you are one of my girls’ people, but I worry that you aren’t living your own life.”

And it took me a while to realize that I wasn’t. I didn’t date, barely went out with friends, and I was in a slump. I have definitely changed a lot from that moment to now. It did not, whatsoever, have anything to do with hanging out with Julia. Nothing, and I love and cherish every single moment and memory from that time with them. I regret nothing. I was just hiding.

So I stopped. I started dating, eventually found Joe, found some amazing friends that have stuck by me constantly no matter what, and I am working on happiness every day.

I do miss out on some firsts, but then I am experiencing a lot of my own firsts, and there is yet again a bittersweet edge to all of this – I get to have firsts of my own, but I miss out on others.

I am relearning how to keep the balance of family, friends, and love. I am learning new patience with myself while I experience all of this and while it feels like I am on the edge of brand new experiences, I know I still have that anchor of my love for everyone that’s in my life, past and present.

I love you all! Thank you for being my compass, my anchor, an my driving force. And thank you for letting me be able to experience the firsts with all your love and support.

I can’t wait till I am back for the next new experience, but I also can’t wait to tell you guys all about my own next adventure.

~Andreah