Lest We Forget …

When I was a little girl, I loved to hear the family stories my Scottish granny, Alice Gordon, would share of her parents swapping the civilized life of gentry in Glasgow for the pioneering life of the wilds of northern Alberta in the 1920s. A family of nine stepping into the unknown to start anew under some of the most undesirable conditions possible. The longest, bitterest winters. The angriest mosquitoes. The biggest, immovable field stones. What a shock to the system! I’ve heard lately that if they’d had the money they would have returned to the old country after just a year of these, and other, challenges. Their life was just that hard.

Still, Granny was proud to tell of their sacrifices, incumbent hardships and the ultimate satisfaction of taming a hostile environment that provided a foundation for future generations to grow and prosper. She was also proud to call herself a Canadian.

Her younger brother, Archie, was just five when they landed. Barely 15 years later he would pay the ultimate price for his new country, in the cause of freedom.

I am reminded that nothing that is of value comes without a price.

Here, in my late Granny’s own words from a memoir I discovered and typed up earlier this year, is a short account of Flight Engineer, Archibald Don Gordon RCAF, Squadron 405 Bomber Command, and the family’s experience of his loss. Though her thoughts are quite personal I feel it appropriate to share. May her words be a poignant reminder to us all.

Lest we forget …

~*~

Archie Gordon

Archibald Don Gordon was born December 15, 1919, in Dundee, Scotland ~ the 12th of 13 children (seven made it to adulthood) and the first after dad’s (William Alexander Gordon) return from the war. He was named for a superior officer who was killed. The officer’s name was Archibald Don. Dad wrote to the family in England and asked permission to do so. Archie came from a proud family of soldiers. Indeed, our father was a member of the Black Watch and served out his time in WWI as a Sergeant Major.

He was a chubby, sturdy little boy with hazel eyes and red hair who grew into a good looking young man with a ready grin. He had a sunny disposition and was popular with everyone who knew him. Archie was always ready for a prank. Always willing to go along with his friends in all of their various and, sometimes, daring activities. When he was angry it never lasted for long. However, he had lots of grit and his temper, when roused, was something to see. As he grew up he was very well liked by the girls. He was wonderful dancer and very sociable.

When he joined the RCAF he had been training as an electric and acetylene welder in Edmonton. Frank, his older brother, and he enlisted as volunteers at the same time. Before doing so they set aside a few weeks at home and travelled with dad and sort of did the town. Then they went their separate ways into the services. One Army; one Air Force. Frank tried later to get a transfer to the Air Force, but was unsuccessful.

The war got very grim as history books will tell. Archie started out as ground crew, but studied to become air crew. He was very happy when he made it. He flew in a Halifax Bomber as a Flight Engineer. Those bombers were big and awkward and had very little maneuverability. They were really sitting ducks for enemy planes.

Of course, it happened. He and his crew were shot down over the Bay of Biscay while on a mine laying expedition. Six fellows in the crew. Some bodies were washed up on islands in the Bay. He was reported as missing in action for six months, then he was officially presumed dead. The bodies that washed up, including Archie’s, were buried by the French civilians in a cemetery in La Rochelle. Later, after the war was over, they were gathered up from their various burying places and laid to rest in a big military cemetery. Archie’s body, along with those of his crew companions, was reburied at Pornic cemetery in France.

The correspondence regarding these events were thrusts of sorrow and pain to my mother and father, and to the rest of us. So many tears. Archie had met a girl in Brandon, Manitoba, who was in training as a nurse and became engaged to her. Her name was Dot Hurle.

Who can write sorrow? Those who feel sorrow can hardly tell it. It is a leaden weight ever present in the heart. The night Archie was killed, April 6th, 1943, I dreamt I was a way high up in the sky. It was very dark. Then I felt a great crushing on my chest, and I woke up. I felt very strange, but went back to sleep. I then dreamed I was in a great field of very beautiful white lilies. I was desperately searching for a coloured lily, but I searched and searched and didn’t find one. Word came the next day that Archie was missing in action.

Can you imagine my mother’s sorrow; my dad’s sorrow?

My mother was alone when the telegram arrived. She ran to a neighbour who got to my dad at his work. Such a dark day. My mother couldn’t eat or drink fearing that Archie was a war prisoner, or that he had no food or water. I cannot tell all details here of the agony of it. My mother had been listening to the news on the radio the night before. The results of raids and which planes had not come back to England were broadcasted. She heard that the Bomber “P for Peter” had not returned, and said she sort of knew that Archie had been on it. He was 23. My mother didn’t sleep for nights on end. The darkness that descended on us when the dreaded telegram came never did leave. Words cannot express the very depth of our sorrow. Hearts were broken never to heal. Our big, tough dad wept until the tears rolled down his cheeks when his face, he thought, was hidden behind his newspaper. But I saw those tears. We all did, and turned away and wept. I don’t believe (and some others feel the same) that Frank ever got over the loss and the grief.

Trips were made to the Red Cross headquarters in Edmonton every day to find out if anything had been heard. My family were not the only ones who made these sad trips. There were many families hoping against hope.

Anyway, after six months they were all presumed dead. Archie’s clothes came home in a box. Not many. No uniforms. All the shirts and socks needed washing. He’d had some of his pay sent home each month and deposited in my mother’s name in a bank. She didn’t spend a cent of it for many years, until my dad urged her to.

I never forget them, the hosts of the great volunteers. They unselfishly and bravely and willingly offered their all. Their all was taken, but the spirit is beyond harm and death, so triumphantly they live. I know they live. I know Archie lives.

These boys were great. They gave their lives for a great cause. Read about Hitler and concentration camps and the Holocaust of that time and realize that these boys knew why they were fighting and they didn’t die in vain. Read of their joking and laughing as they boarded their bombers for the raids knowing that the big thing was to do the job, and knowing they were facing almost certain death. Archie and his great host of fighting heroes are forever alive and forever with Almighty God in a safe place. Because God loves the ones who give their lives for a good cause. And did not God’s own Son set them an example? Believe me I know that they are all ok and safely home, and we shall all meet again as sure as the sun rises each day. I look forward to seeing Archie. I long to see him. And I will see him. I’ll also see all my loved ones who have gone on before me. Each of us are spiritual and alive and better off than ever, and I know that Christ was with the men fighting for right and that He gave them all a welcome home to their new and spiritual life. He was on the shore at La Rochelle and He guided them in to a safe harbour.

Time goes on and time does heal.

Dear reader never forget these boys and men who paid the full price for the freedom of Europe and for us, too, as had Hitler not been stopped he would have been in England (he already had France and Holland and Belgium and many other countries). These boys had a saying. If crews didn’t return after a raid they said that the crew had “bought it,” or so and so had “bought it,” and so on. So Archie and his crew “bought it,” too. The “it” being our freedom. They considered they were buying our freedom, and that they certainly did. And Jesus also “bought it.” You see? They paid the price. Out of my family of seven raised, one paid for the freedom for the rest of us. And for many others.

To conclude, Granny penned this beautiful poem tribute to the lads who lost their lives in defence of freedom. I’m told it appeared in the Edmonton Journal some time in the 1950s during a Remembrance Day feature. Sadly, I don’t know the specifics, still her words live on.

~*~

A Lad and a Lark

Alice Gordon McDonall

Upon the death of Flight Sergeant Archibald Don Gordon, RCAF,
405 Squadron, killed in action April 6, 1943, over the Bay of Biscay.
Buried in Plot 1, Row AB, Grave 5 Pornic War Cemetery, France

1
From far off shores they wrote and said,
“Your boy lies here among the dead
With softest care and gentle hands
We laid him with Canadians.”

2
See how the grain is bending low.
See how the rivers cease their flow.
The wild flowers drop their saucy heads
The winds hide in their mountain beds.

3
Silent and sighing the whole land
Grieving my lost Canadian
Bowed in sorrow and despair
Broken my heart beyond compare.

4
The land, the sky so very dark,
But, what is this? A meadowlark?
Hear it! Hear it! Through the haze?
“I love dear Canada,” it says.

5
“He is not dead!” he bravely tells,
“He’s here! He’s walking in the dells.
He wanders by the river wide
He’s here! He’s here! He has not died.”

6
His little voice, so sweetly true
I must believe! Oh, wouldn’t you?
The meadowlark my laddie loved
And deathless Life to me was proved.

7
Oh, leap you rivers, run you fast.
You flowers lift up your heads at last.
Blow, blow you winds and toss the grain
I know my lad is back again.

8
I raise my head and bow no more
Lift up my heart and am quite sure
He is not dead. He walks the land.
For is he not Canadian?

9
Oh, meadowlark you little bird
Who in my darkest night was heard.
Love you my Canadian lad?
“I love all Canada,” he said.

~*~

Most of my grandmother’s generation are gone now, and with them the terrible burden of memories they carried of a most brutal time in our world’s history. I pray, for all our sakes, that the sacrifices of those who gave their lives in pursuit of freedom, and the sorrows of those who loved and lost them and had their lives forever changed because of it, shall not be in vain.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2017

 

Bedtime Story

“Would you read something to me before we turn out the light,” asks my sleepy niece, Amy, as I tuck her into bed. “Please.”

With her parents off on a well-deserved long weekend, Amy’s pulling an all-nighter at our house, something which doesn’t happen often, but which she loves because it means she can help out with the horses in the morning. She seems to love this more than anything in the world. Possibly even more than her devotion to all things chocolate.

Having no children of my own, I love to spend these impossibly rare moments with her. The somnolent tête à tête before lights out, when the dying embers of the day’s thoughts finally extinguish and we are left to our individual restorative peace. For some reason Amy, even though she is 12, still likes to be read to before I leave her to slumber. Perhaps it’s the special occasion of it. Our special occasion. It is a moment I am all too willing to share.

“Of course, sweetie.” I whisper with a slight yawn while setting myself down on the edge of the bed beside her. “What would you like?”

“A Shakespeare sonnet,” she yawns, drowsily in response.

“Really …” I tease and smile. She is a young woman who already demonstrates exquisite literary taste, but I’m pretty sure it’s not the William Shakespeare of old she has in mind. “And, pray, which Shakespeare is it to whom you refer?” I ask, while reaching for a small self-published chapbook that lives on the bedside table for the pleasure of anyone who might be interested in a moment’s distraction.

“You know which one, Aunt Ella,” she mumbles with sleepy agitation.

“Old Bill?” I ask.

“Old Bear,” she insists, her bleary eyes brightening slightly with anticipation. “Read me the one about love.”

“That one again?”

“It’s my favourite. He’s such a romantic.”

He’s such a romantic. She’s such a romantic. The he to whom she refers is my horse Shakespeare who fancies himself a poet. No, perhaps I am the romantic. I can’t help myself. When you’re a writer and a horse named Shakespeare trots into your life you have to do something with it.

“Do you remember what number it is in our little book here?” I ask while thumbing through the pages.

“I think it’s XIX,” she mumbles, being literal with her Roman numerals.

I continue to flip. “Ah, here it is. It’s actually XXI. Do you remember what that is in real numbers?” I ask, since the only numbers she considers real are the ones we use day to day.

“Twenty-one?” she murmurs, a little unsure.

“Geez, you’re a smart cookie.”

“I try.” Amy hunkers down under the covers as I flatten out the pages and hold the chapbook up where I can see it in the dimness of the bedside light. My fading eyes fight for the clarity of form and function. Removing my glasses helps.

“Okay then … here goes …” I clear my throat and begin in my best poetry reading voice ~ slow, methodical, lyrical.

~*~

Sonnet XXI

As in the dark of night a thief doth steal,
New love my heart hath seizéd in a trice.
And should I share with you just how I feel:
It’s thumpity-thumpy-thump is rather nice.
A feisty filly brightens this ol’ bay,
And so profoundly fills my Soul with bliss
I scarce believe, this cold Feb’rary day,
A shift from old to new hath brought me this.

I did not look for love; no, it found me.
And in my heart-home set most perfect peace.
Where once twas blind I now more clearly see,
For ‘pon this life love’s joy hath wrought new lease.
And to my heart hath whispered pure and true
With lovely presence of someone like you.

~*~

 We both wait for a moment before breathing a word.

“He is such a clever horse,” Amy says, dreamily.

“Yes, he is rather.” I smile. Amy knows that I am the pen behind these words. Still, Shakespeare, or Bear as we like to call him, is the Muse.

“Read it to me again, please?” My sleepy niece asks as she moves onto her side to face me. The draw bridges of her eyes close in as she buries her head deeper into the duck down pillow.

“Of course, darling.” I pull the covers up around her shoulders as Indy the black cat curls up in a ball behind her bent knees.

I repeat the sonnet ~ even slower this time, wrapping my tongue around every word so as to heighten its feeling until I am, again, without words.

“Again.” Amy demands, sleepily. She’ll be gone soon.

I repeat the sonnet, now at a snail’s pace as if it becomes a meditation, slowing the day to emptiness. (Gosh, now I’m sleepy.) And soon she is gone, into a netherworld I shall never know. Soundly breathing; her long, dark hair tucked in a pony tail; the collar of her flannel pony pyjamas poking out from the top of the covers.

With great care I ease myself off the bed and bend to kiss her soft cheek. I place the chapbook back upon the bedside table where I found it and turn out the light. But for the glow of the Full Pink Moon through the dormer window and a dim light in the hall way the room is in complete shadow.

“Goodnight, my sweet,” I whisper, as I creep toward the door.

“G’nmibh …” She mutters in her sleep.

Daily Prompt: Bedtime

 

Forgiveness …

The pain is deep ~

You put it there.

Not that you knew it,

You were simply sailing

Your oblivious sea

And I, being an innocent,

Was caught in your toxic

Wake; my life line

The place in my Soul you

Could not reach.

*

I forgive you.

I forgive because

Drowning in the pain

Of you hurts only me,

I forgive because

The power is within me.

I forgive to be the peace

I want to see.

I forgive to be

Free.

~*~

Personal freedom begins with forgiveness.

May we all be the peace we wish to see in the world.

Be well,

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2015

Gelato Fantasy

  Daily Prompt: 32 Flavours

~*~

Gelato Fantasy

Vari-coloured gelato

Tempting every taste bud.

What to choose?

Wha’d ever you want!

It’s a vacation.

It’s Venizia …

On the Calle dei Fabri …

A minute from our hotel.

Gelato twice a day.

Molto bene!

Molto delizioso!

Nuff said!

Yummmmmm ….

~*~

Honestly … ice cream will never taste the same again.

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

The Heart Knows

Daily Prompt: Too Big to Fail

Tell us about something you would attempt if you were guaranteed not to fail (and tell us why you haven’t tried it yet).

~*~

You ask what is too big to fail?

Life.

Life is too big to fail.

To live from the heart;

To be free of emotional encumbrances

And the pains of past times

That swell inside because they will not be

Set free.

And why are they not set free?

Fear.

Fear of feeling.

Fear of failure.

Fear of imperfection.

Fear of death.

~*~

This is old.

Old lies plastered over

Real truth.

The truth that resides inside and says,

“Anything is possible. Believe.”

Thus, there is no heart’s desire so big

I will not throw my whole heart into it.

The heart knows what is truth.

And truth knows that all that stands

Between success and failure is

Fear.

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015 

The Narrows of Divorce

Daily Prompt: Cut Off

When was the last time you felt really, truly lonely?

~*~

The narrows of divorce,

As listing ships passed

In dark of night

By treacherous shores,

And fog upon the weary heart

And mind prevailed.

Only the faint beacon of

An off-shore light

Guiding me to a safer shore.

I, the Captain of my foundering ship,

Abandoned by a fickle crew.

Yes loneliness, then, was

All I knew.

~*~

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

An Ode to My Love on Valentine’s Day

Daily Prompt: Cupid’s Arrow

~*~

Thou art the breath of fresh air I hardly

Knew to breathe when

First we met.

Healing of heart to my broken one;

True in nature, and kind.

My light revealed in thine eyes.

My voice awakened in thine ears.

My frozen feelings thawed by thy gentle warmth.

My truth, with thine, reflected in the nurturing world

Create we, now, together.

Cupid’s love-tipped arrow hath hit its target true.

~*~

Happy Valentine’s Day, my love.

Dorothy Chiotti

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015