One of the things that ended up in my hands in the cleaning out of my parents’ house after the they had passed away was a letter — in fact just a short note — that I have hung onto carefully ever since. It is addressed to my grandparents on my father’s side, the postmark on it reads July 1942, and on the back is the seal of Buckingham Palace. The note reads:
“The Queen and I offer you our heartfelt sympathy in your great sorrow. We pray that your country’s gratitude for a life so nobly given in its service may bring you some measure of consolation.”
It is signed by the King, George VI.
I cannot imagine what went through the minds of my grandparents when they found that note in their mailbox. The life nobly given was that of their son, my father’s brother, my uncle. My Dad also served in war. He was not one to talk about it a lot, but whenever I think of the cost of the war, I think of my uncle, and the brother my Dad lost in it. In pictures, I see that he looked a bit like my Dad. I wonder how that family dealt with it at the time. I wonder what kind of uncle he might have been if I’d had the chance to know him. I wonder if he had a girlfriend, and what that loss felt like to her.
One death, one family and a circle of friends bereaved. And the King sent out tens of thousands of similar notes to families across this country. It must have been a pain too heavy to bear.
Remembrance Day is a day of thanksgiving for the service of veterans and particularly to honour the men and women who gave their lives in the conflicts in which our country has been involved. For us as people of faith it is a day of prayer that we might seek the increase of peace and end the hostility of war. It is a day for us to commit ourselves to the cause of working for that peace — fostering goodwill and mutual understanding between people, and building bridges across the differences, suspicions and hostility that have too often divided the nations.
The prophet Micah foresaw a day when we would beat our swords into ploughshares, and not learn war any more. May that be our hope and prayer.
Grace and peace to you,
Revs. Bob and Helen Smith
A version of this message first appeared in the Friday, November 6, 2020, edition of Tidbits.