November Is For Remembering

Last year as we approached November 11th, I wrote a post describing what Remembrance Day meant to me growing up.

I remember my father – a Signalman in the Canadian Armed Forces in World War II.
I remember my mother – surviving 5 years in Nazi Occupied Holland.

My very existence can be attributed to a war that brought together these 2 people from diverse backgrounds on different continents.

Wedding 1945-F

Unfortunately there have been too many wars since 1945.  Whether or not we believe in the ‘rightness’ of the conflict and the role our relative governments have chosen to take, we have an obligation to remember and honour the young people who have responded to the call.  I will remember.  I will pay tribute to them.

However, I have another, unrelated reason to remember.   On November 11, 1970, I lost a cousin.

I was a freshman in high school and Sam was 2 years older than me.  The schools were closed for Remembrance Day and Sam had gone to the family cottage with a friend to do some hunting.   As is often the case with young men in high spirits, alcohol was obtained -but in combination with loaded rifles that day, it was lethal.

Sam was accidentally shot and died on the scene.

I remember it was a clear, crisp, sunny day.  I remember the confusion when the first phone call came in … and the rest is gone.  I have no memory of the shock and disbelief that likely followed that phone call, the whispering, the funeral, the sadness.  It’s like I wasn’t there.

Maybe that’s why every November for the past 44 years, I think of Sam – the soft-spoken young man with the easy smile.  He would have turned 60 years old a few months ago.  I find myself wondering about the man he might have been, and the family he might have had.

Sam

The loss of a young person leaves a hole in the lives of the people left behind.  When that death is in a violent manner, that hole seems to have jagged, torn edges that don’t heal properly.  The What Ifs remain, unanswerable.

Yes – November is a month when I remember.  This November is not an exception.

 

About Joanne Sisco

Retired but not idle. Life is an adventure - I plan to continue to embrace it.
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56 Responses to November Is For Remembering

  1. ChristineR says:

    Thanks for sharing, Joanne.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Beautifully written. I just hope than not all the memories are sad ones…

    I envy your style–direct and heartfelt.

    Like

  3. Such a personal and moving post – you write so well and convey so much. What a wonderful thing that your parents found each other after all that horror and built a good life together. Such a violent death as your cousin suffered is hard to comprehend and it sounds like you’ll always carry the sadness of it with you. I’ve attended Remembrance Day ceremonies since I was young – they are such sad reminders of lives cut short and dreams not realized.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Thank you for the kind compliment. I love to write but I worry that my style is too sparse to convey my message effectively. So often the comments made by others express my intent so much better!

      You’re so right about dreams not realized. 😦

      Like

  4. Tina says:

    Beautifully put Joanne.

    Like

  5. These are sad memories of November 11th. I’m so sorry for your loss. Much love.

    Like

  6. jannatwrites says:

    This is heartbreaking. I’m sorry for your tragic loss. It is hard not to wander amongst the ‘what ifs’ when a life is cut short so soon. We’re supposed to life to the ripe old age of ???

    Like

  7. Oh Joanne, you made me cry! Such a thought provoking post, thank you for sharing such an intimate and emotional part of your life, written with such grace and tenacity. Beautiful photos too.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Sorry I made you cry … but it means I did a good job of conveying the sense of loss.
      Thank you for your kind words. This story had been banging around in my head for a few weeks. I needed to write it and I’m humbled that it has resonated with people.

      Liked by 1 person

  8. Lynn says:

    I think you’re right, many families are like the yours, especially from past generations. The idea of sitting down as a family to talk about feelings was not the norm. I would like to think that we have done a better job of communication with our kids, teaching them to talk about things. I know that I spent a great deal of time encouraging our children to open up, I can only hope that they feel more comfortable & will pass these teachings to their children. We all need someone to talk to, someone we trust to listen, to help us walk through difficult days & at the very least, just know that we are in their corner.

    In regards to less conflict in the world, I fear this is a never ending battle. I am dumbstruck to see the string of comments in social media sometimes. How is it possible that there are still so many people feeling such hatred towards cultures different then our own? Sigh…..

    Like

  9. Lynn says:

    Beautifully written Joanne. Losing someone so young has such a profound effect on our lives. What a tragic loss for your family. I am glad for you, that you took the time to write about Sam & acknowledge your thoughts about how his death has impacted you. I think he must be smiling somewhere, knowing that you continue to think of him & keep his memory alive.

    May we all take some time remember all of the men & women who have fought & continue to fight for our freedoms.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Thank you Lynn. You said it very well – an unexpected loss close to you when you’re young is rattling. It’s made even worse when you come from a family that doesn’t talk about anything unpleasant or upsetting. It gets buried.
      I’m sure there are many families out there like mine.

      Is it too idealistic to hope for a little more sanity in the world and a lot less conflict?

      Like

  10. This is such a sad yet beautiful post, Jo. Losing anyone is tragic but one so young, crippling xx

    Like

  11. Such an unfortunate accident. So sorry to hear about your cousin. Young people are meant to live to old age.
    I mourn for all the boys and men who have fought for their countries only to never come home again. How can we not be thankful and remember them each November? ❤ ❤

    Like

  12. Joanne, what a heartfelt and poignant post. My parents, too, were brought together by war and I’ve often mused about the “how” of their coming together. Huge world events affect us in immeasurable ways. And then the small, shocking losses which stay with us forever. It says so much about what kind of person you are (terrific, we all know) that you remember Sam this remember and share his story with us. They say no man is truly dead as long as someone remembers his name.

    Like

  13. lumar1298 says:

    Wow… Such a tragic lost… So sorry for the lost… Glad you do have nice memories to go back to…

    Like

  14. Heyjude says:

    A thoughtful and poignant post.

    Like

  15. M-R says:

    Necessary to talk about things like this, Joanne – about the pleasurable as well as the miserable.
    It’s what memories are made of, isn’t it …?

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Very true M-R … but I come from a family that doesn’t talk about anything unpleasant, controversial, or sensitive in any way. We dance around each other never really saying what we’re thinking. Asking questions were strongly discouraged.

      I’ve never talked about Sam before now – not to family, not to friends – but his story has been knocking at the back of my mind for a few weeks. It was time.

      Liked by 1 person

      • M-R says:

        And I commend you for recognising that. We are all here for this very purpose.

        Liked by 1 person

      • I think I will climb aboard this long line of comments here. I appreciate very much that you felt compelled to put this story to the page, Joanne.

        This is a lovely tribute and I thank you for sharing the story.

        I did not experience the loss of a close one, not even of a pet, until I was in my thirties, so I can only imagine the emotional impact it had on you, your classmates, and your family.

        As an aside: you look like your mom, and if I’m not mistaken, I detect something around the eyes, in Sam, too.

        Like

  16. Yes, November is for remembering. Remembering a loss such as yours compounds it. Seems daily we hear of senseless acts and I find myself thinking of these young people lost and what they would have been, could have been. We will all pause to remember this year, perhaps more than others. As the result of a wartime union myself, please know that your hurting is not alone.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Wartime unions are so interesting. They are a reminder of the good that comes out of even the worst situations.
      Unfortunately there is too much hurt spread out around the world – and so much of it should have been avoided.

      At least once a year we are united in mourning the senseless losses.

      Like

  17. bulldog says:

    One hits the like button on such a post, not to like what happened but rather to acknowledge the written word…. But then out of a war came Joanne, a wonderful share in the story… but also the sad news of Sam…
    Having fought in a war on our border in Rhodesia, I know what it is lkke to remember those that were lost in the conflict… and now so many years later one thinks how tragic the losses were on both sides… War and Guns always cause pain in soneones life…. even if it is the killing of animals when not needed for food…

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      I “mourn” for people like you who have experienced war first-hand. I’m confident that it leaves scars – physical and emotional – that are constant reminders of something that no one should ever have to experience.

      I see that you feel the same way about guns that I do. Every shooting I hear about makes me cringe.

      Like

  18. Sammy D. says:

    Thank you, Joanne, for paying tribute to our vets. There are many families all over the world touched by war. I am sorry you lost your cousin so young and in such tragic circumstances – those first losses and brushes with death when we were young make lasting impressions and are revived at specific times. I do still ponder the meaning of those taken so young and the responsibility we have to live our lives fully and truly in their memory.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      Thanks Sammy for your kind words. It never ceases to amaze me how a deeply personal story can resonate with other people. The feelings that we think no one will understand, turn out to be shared with so many others.
      This was one instance where I thought that my feelings could only scratch the surface of the pain and loss others have suffered.

      Like

      • Sammy D. says:

        I think of times like your cousin’s death as ‘innocence lost’ because they are the sober beginnings of learning how cruel and capricious life can be. But we also learn how to grieve, become resilient and appreciate what we are given. The lessons just come at a terrible cost.

        Like

  19. Yes. The What Ifs and If Onlys. They haunt you forever.
    I’ll be thinking of you on the 11th, Joanne. xx

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      I thought about you MOSY as I wrote this post. I know it is also a very sensitive time of year for you. You are haunted by your own What Ifs and If Onlys.
      I think our ability and willingness to remember is important ❤

      Liked by 1 person

  20. NancyTex says:

    What a heartbreaking story. I’m so sorry for your loss, Joanne. To think that a gun-related death happened 44 years ago, RIGHT HERE IN CANADA, makes me shiver. I’m with you on the guns = no good mantra. Hugs.

    Like

  21. Sue Slaght says:

    Such a tragic loss Joanne. Obviously your cousin has remained close in your heart all these years.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      You’re right Sue. It’s funny how every November he comes back to me.
      I would imagine it’s similar for other people who have lost someone suddenly at a young age. The What Ifs haunt you.

      Like

      • Sue Slaght says:

        You are so right Joanne. I lost a very good friend in a motor vehicle accident when I was 19. It sounds crazy, even moreso because I am such a minimalist, but until a few years ago I still had his sweater. His death left me profoundly impacted and perhaps the gift in all of it was my drive to embrace every moment of life. Your post really touched my heart.

        Like

  22. mihrank says:

    this is so beautiful post – I am touched!

    Like

  23. Joanne, your writing is so powerful here, I can truly see that void you’ve been feeling for all these years and how lost and disconnected you must have felt at the time Sam was taken. I’m hopeful that you also take time to remember the wonderful moments Sam added to your life. Lastly, though of course war is never something to wish for, I’m am hopeful that you remember the warmth of your parents and realize that even in the midst of chaos and hatred they made love bloom. It’s a lot really.

    Like

    • joannesisco says:

      You’re right. My parent’s marriage was always a reminder to me that something good can come out of a bad situation.
      On the flip side, Sam’s death reminds me that life is fleeting. That day left a huge impression on me.

      Like

  24. I’m sorry to hear about your cousin, I dread reading about hunting accidents every fall and when they happen to people you’ve come to know it is even more tragic..

    Like

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