Sunday’s service at the Cenotaph has always meant a lot in our family. I had elderly parents and my father had first hand experience of the First World War. He often travelled a distance up to London to be present in the crowds at the Cenotaph, in order to remember friends who were less fortunate than himself. Like many, he never talked about them or about what he had shared with them.
Then we would regularly watch the service on television. The Queen’s dignified observance always impressed. Also the solemn music, the silence and simple prayers. Followed by the moving march past of those involved in so many huge and varied conflicts. Written on their faces was the cost of it all, beyond our everyday imagining. It still makes me cry.
Now, as grandparents, we know that some of our grandchildren are taking part in local ceremonies based upon the Cenotaph service. Old memories, expressed and silent, are renewed in the fresh minds of another generation. Like everything else, memories can be two different things. They can be terribly destructive. But I would rather see them as giving rise to hope. Hope that things can be different; that there are values worth preserving; that the pain of loss is redeemed by sacrifice when both are shared.
Help us to remember you
at the heart of our human experience.
Teach us when to protect life at all costs
and when to give it up into your hands,
for you lived and died for others.
In your name we pray,