Princess Patricia Canadian Light Infantry
Lucas and Peter Dawe Senior, Lieut-Col ,Rtd.... presenting the Captain Matthew Dawe Ceremonial Sword to OCdt Jean Christophe Jacques' Ouellet at The Arch Memorial Ceremony at Royal Military College in Kingston on October 2nd, 2011
This building at The Royal Military College in Kingston is the first building to be named in honour of a Canadian soldier killed in action Afghanistan
I think... if you follow my blog regularly that you would agree that I present a pretty upbeat and optimistic outlook on the whole. But I must readily admit that that optimism and "joie de vivre" is greatly challenged during this usually gloomy month... save for celebrating the births of two of my children.... November 24th for Liam James... now to be 18 years young... and on November 30th my eldest child Lisa will turn... better ask "Her"! HA HA!!
I was born... raised and spent most of my life on the shores of The St Lawrence River... so "I" am proudly.. a "River Boy"! The is the core of my very being... spiritually and artistically. I feel much at peace when "I" am "home"... standing on its shores... anywhere between Gananoque and Brockville... where I was born. When we visit the area... I stop and simply gulp in that rarefied River air... and my body and mind know that we are at home!
At this time of the year however... the River takes on an almost malevolent... steely... gun grey persona that I can't say I totally enjoy... except on rare days when buttermilk skies add a warmth to compliment that pervasive and dominant greyness. And yes... I am one of those unfortunate individuals who suffers when light or time is changed or is available for shortened periods of time.
On this very date... November 10th, 1975 a huge Great Lakes ore carrier, The Edmund Fitzgerald disappeared with all hands during a vicious November gale on Lake Superior.It was discovered by a deep diving expedition to have succumbed to damage caused by being broken in half between two mammoth waves... then plunging at break neck speed... burying its forward bow area deep into the lake bottom. Death would have been instantaneous due to the frigid water conditions and the pressure which easily buckled the superstructure and hull of this mammoth laker.
This horrific November Canadian Great Lakes disaster brought great sadness to all Canadians... especially those who live along the waterways on which the Edmund Fitzgerald sailed. As a boy playing baseball at the coal docks on the Brockville waterfront ( I lived a block away and within sight of the River)... we would pause our games and run to the docks to wave at the passing carriers. We got to know the ships on sight... the Scott Misener and the Edmund Fitzgerald being my favourites because of their length... sleek beauty and swiftness. On more than one occasion this ship passed coming and going on its journey up and down the River.
My favourite balladeer and troubadour, Gordon Lightfoot... who coincidentally was born and began his brilliant musical career in Orillia, twenty minutes from Hillsdale wrote The Wreck of the Edmund Fitzgerald which is easily a Canadian anthem... and an all time favourite of mine. I am listening to it ... as I write this post... and I resurrect and play it often...each and every November. Strangely... despite the magnitude of sadness that this ballad carries with it... paradoxically for "Me"... I find peace and inner quiet as a result of listening to it.
According to old Chipewyan native legend... Gitchee Gumee as they refer to our label Lake Superior... never gives up her dead. Lightfoot added these thoughts to a pair of lines that resonate my feelings about November perfectly.
"The Lake it is said, never gives up her dead
When the skies of November turn gloomy."
Those gloomy November skies are a perfect backdrop for our Canadian Day of Remembrance... held across the Dominion on November 11th... the day that gunfire ceased in World War I. IT has always been a part of my November ritual to visit the cenotaph and to take part in the Service of Remembrance in each of the communities where I have lived. I even took my full classes on the day to encourage their participation and understanding of the sacrifice... and the needless and devastating loss that war causes.
I had two uncles who served overseas during World War II... both were severely wounded in action in Normandy and Italy... so that our family well knows the cost of war and has reason to be respectful and observant of this day. However... on July 5th, 2007 Remembrance Day would forever carry a face... a young 27 year old Captain... a hockey pal and schoolmate of my son Andrew... a child that I had enjoyed on a hockey team that I helped coach with his dad.
Captain Matthew Jonathan Dawe and five of his men were killed instantly by a roadside device in southern Afghanistan... only a week after he had lost three of his men in another incident. He was one month from returning to his wife Tara, 1 year old son Lucas and his family. Matthew came from a military family. His father Peter is a retired lieutenant-colonel. All four sons served in the military... and one currently commands the Canadian Afghanistan contingent.
Even as a young peewee hockey player... Peter was a leader on and off the ice. His quick wit and infectious smile is something of "Him" that still burns strong in my heart today. Just before his untimely death Matt was quoted as saying that "he couldn't wait to get home to his family in Edmonton and Kingston"... "and that his heart ached to change diapers and do the daddy stuff " with Tara and Lucas. Too sadly.. both "He" and "They" would never enjoy those precious... taken-for-granted daily moments... which most of us sometimes gripe about.
According to his superiors and his men who loved him dearly..."Matt led from the front"... and he paid the supreme price for that valour and example. Tomorrow at the Remembrance Day services in nearby Midland... during that "two minutes of silence"... "taps" and "Reveille"... my heart will belong solely.. to Matthew and his courageous family who survive him: Tara...Lucas... Reine his mother... Peter his dad and brothers Philip...James and Peter.
Kingston is an army town... a base for the army, Staff College and the Royal Military College. We had a home in nearby Grenadier Village. Our children were raised and schooled with army children. It was indeed a tight family environment... and the ties remain. My daughter Allison lives just down the street in Kingston from Tara and Lucas. Last Friday, we dropped by in order for me to present this painting memento of my respect and thanks for their sacrifice. Tara was not home... but Allison has offered to deliver the painting and a note to Tara and Lucas on my behalf. Others have recently offered gestures of remembrance in Matthew's honour which underscores his community's and whole family's continued belief... that their loss continues to have meaning and purpose. I have include a couple of jpegs to show those gestures with my viewers.
We have all been robbed of beautiful... wonderful... precious minds... each in our own corner of existence. Let us set aside daily thoughts of gratitude to those who "led at the front"... and sacrificed their tomorrows... so that we could have today! Honour them... by making something lasting and good Today... and Tomorrow... in their memory and honour. We owe them that debt of gratitude... not to squander their precious gift to all of us!
Heads and hearts up!... and back to the easel!
Good painting...to ALL!!!