Having been raised in a Mennonite home with pacifistic traditions, I’ve had a difficult time coming to terms with Remembrance Day and all it stands for. I am more thankful than I can say for those who risked or gave their lives so I can live in peace. I can recite “In Flanders Fields,” and it fills me with emotions. I wear a poppy to express my gratitude as well as my sorrow for the lives cut short, even though I don’t believe in war as a means of settling disputes.
Besides dealing with these issues in my personal life, I have also met them on the pages of my manuscripts.
My maternal grandfather didn’t fight in the army during WWI, but he served in the Red Cross in Turkey. He loved to tell us stories of danger and fear and courage. Of being shot in the toe… “Do you want to see it?” he’d ask.
My dad served in a Conscientious Objector camp at Seebe, near Banff, Alberta, for a few months, but had to return home to run the farm when his father became too ill to carry on. His volunteerism was cut short.
But the stories of my ancestors and fellow Mennonites, the ones about whom I write, are set during the Russian Revolution and Civil War, both World Wars, the Chinese Civil War and even the Korean War. There’s no getting around it. I have to examine my beliefs and know what I stand for and why.
As other writers know, our books often become the arenas where our beliefs are sorted out. We fight these battles through the lives of our characters as we strive to understand ourselves. That is certainly true of me.
So when November 11 comes around every year, I can now embrace it as a time to remember sacrifice and suffering and loss. And I can count myself in the number of those who live in freedom because of the efforts of others who have gone before.
Janice L. Dick writes historical and contemporary fiction, inspirational articles and book reviews. She also edits and presents writing workshops.