In the Emptiness – I Will Remember.

I have always been moved by the roll call at the Cenotaph.  The calling of the names.  Names that I didn’t know.  But all though I am unfamiliar with them, they are names that were significant to someone.  Names that had families who loved and cared for them.  Names that reflected lives. Lives that loved, laughed, languished and were filled with longings and dreams.  Many of these names snuffed out in the prime of their life, their timeline abruptly stopped.  They have moved from the realm of reality to history. 

The roll is called and there is no answer. 

I was doing some research as I was preparing for today and I discovered a staggering statistic.  During the second World War and build up to it, two-thirds of those who died were civilians.  One third were military.  Sixty Six percent of those who died were caught in the crossfire, pawns in a much larger and destructive game.  People who wanted to live in freedom.  Free to love, to marry, to have children, to dream, to be what they wanted to be.  We as society share in the destruction that comes with war, it impacts us all, never think it is only isolated to those who choose to be on the front line of defence, we are all left grieving if war is a reality.

The dinner bell is rung, and they don’t come for supper.

I often share stories from my dad during this service. My dad is 93. He was 18 when the second world war ended.  He was a part of the Dutch underground, those that tried to restore order after the Canadian Army liberated them.  One of the great blessings is that my dad is still as sharp as a tack.  He remembers the past in vivid detail.  My dad goes to Tim Horton’s almost everyday and hangs out with the retired men and women who gather there.  He is the senior of the seniors. The joke is often when someone can’t remember something is to ask Klaas, because he was alive when that happened. He is a human historical google.

I was talking to him and my mom on the weekend.  We got talking about something my aunt had posted in our family group on Facebook.  It was her recollections of an event that happened on November 2, 1944.  It became known, in our family, as the “Razzia” or the raid. Someone had informed the Gestapo about our family’s efforts to hide people and other underground activities.  They had raided the home at 7 am and they took into custody 4 of my uncles (who went to work camps), and my grandfather, who went into a prison camp and wasn’t released until the end of the war. 

My dad said this was the most difficult part of the war.  As German control began to wane, they struck back with vengeance.  Many of my father’s friends died during this time until their eventual liberation in April of 1945. He said to me he remembers them each by name: the curse of a sound mind.

Young people lost in the prime of their life. 

This year I come to Remembrance Day from a different perspective than I have ever come before.  I don’t tell you this information to make you feel sorry for me or to try and make this day about me.  In May of this year, my son, Stephen died.  He was 24 years old.  He lived the majority of his life in our little town of Callander.  He went to M.T. Davidson School. He helped with this service when he was in grade 7.  He graduated from West Ferris.  With some help from Community Living we were able to help Stephen to live independently.  Stephen was sweet, he had a smile that could light up a room.  He loved people and he thought of everyone as a friend that he had never met before.  He was my main heckler during sermons.  I hated it.  Now I would give anything to here one of his rants.

  Stephen came to our family through adoption.  One of my chosen sons. Stephen was diagnosed with Epilepsy when he was very young.  Years of tests and medical treatment helped, but we were never to get complete control of them.  We always knew this seizure disorder was serious, but we never imagined it would end this way.  He went to bed on the Friday of Mother’s Day weekend and never woke up.

A young man taken in the prime of his life.

The immenseness of this inequity visits me almost daily.  It catches me and takes my breath away.  I think what bothers me the most is the unnaturalness of the order of things.  You always thing that there is a natural sequence to life.  I never imagined a child of mine dying before me. All though I had seen it with others.  I believed my story would follow the plot line that I had penned in my head and heart.  Instead I discovered how fragile this life is and how little security and guarantees there are.  I now understand the agony of having a son who will never come home again.

Everyday has a little bit of emptiness in it, without him here. 

At first the emptiness was all consuming.  It was debilitating.  During this time a friend came to visit me, and he told me about how his brother has died many years ago.  He had perished in a boat accident and had drown.  He was the one who was called to identify the body.  His last memory of his brother became that moment.  He said it haunted him, so he choose to remember him in a happier moment.  A moment where his brother was beating him in a game of cards and he was smiling as he was pulling in the spoils of his victory.


I let go of the horrors of the day my son died and I choose my sons 24th birthday. I have the picture sitting in my office.  He is holding his cake and smiling.  He is alive, enjoying life and embracing this milestone in his life.

I don’t want to lose that emptiness.  I don’t want to fill it with something else, because It is in that emptiness I remember.  But I choose to remember that moment and I give thanks that I had the opportunity to be a part of his life.

Jesus did the same thing. He established an event, “The Lord’s Supper” which was to serve as a striking memorial to his death.  He told his disciples, “do this in remembrance of me”.  Let the emptiness of this loss fill you, never forget the sacrifice that I did on your behalf and let the result be thanksgiving and eternal gratitude.

This is a day when we remember, and we let the emptiness of these losses fill us again and the result is we are thankful for their sacrifice and this great gift so we can have freedom.

We will let this emptiness fill us – LEST WE FORGET!

At the going down of the sun and in the morning we will remember them – yes, we will remember.

4 Responses to “In the Emptiness – I Will Remember.”

  1. dianne blackbird November 11, 2019 at 1:52 pm

    i,ve lost two sons. thanks for the reminder, i asked the lord to take away the pain of the losses but then i asked him to keep it there if it will help me to stay in touch of reality. if the pain keeps me focused i,ll keep it. life is really short and precious.

  2. Thanks for that PastorJohn. You connected the dots well. The biblical sacrifice of God’s son, the war’s sacrifice of sons and as always, you were real with us, by sharing your own recent loss.

  3. Thank you for sharing your heart. This was so beautifully put. Truly gave me a new and greater perspective on Remembrance Day. When my mother had dementia, she would tell me stories about the war over and over forgetting that she had told them already. Now that she is gone, I would give anything to hear them one more time.

  4. Gloria Rebellato Lavoie November 11, 2021 at 9:32 am

    Thank you Pastor John 👏 Grief is part of our love for Jesus and brings us closer to our calling. 💕

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