“You only live once, but if you do it right, once is enough.”― Mae West
On April 25, 2021, my beautiful Mémère passed away, aged 102. Yes, 102 years old. She would have been 103 on Canada day, July 1st.
I missed her birthday last year, thanks Covid. I was sick and unable to visit out of fear of making her ill (no, I didn’t have Covid).
Two weeks before her death, I got to visit her. She looked great! She held my hand tight, looked deep into my eyes. She loved having her family near. She was a very devout Catholic and I’d like to believe that she is in her heaven with her husband, my pépère (he died in the 1980s), and her daughter, my matante Clairine, who died almost 13 years ago in an accident. I hope she is surrounded by all her loved ones.
Her name was Albertine Doucet (née Dugas). She survived the Great Depression, WWII, and so many other calamities. She started life with no indoor plumbing, no phones, none of the things we take for granted now. After my pépère past, she got her driver’s license at the ripe young age of 66! She raised seven children, only losing one in her twilight years.
My mémère spoke very little English, but always had a warm hug and a huge smile for those who didn’t understand her words. She accepted everyone for who they were. She had a huge heart and loved all of us, and we are a BIG family.
My mémère survived to see the youngest members of her extended family six generations on. She was a great great great grandmother to my cousin’s grand-children! She was the matriarch of our family and I know it just won’t be the same without her.
For the first time in years, I won’t be travelling up north to see her on her birthday. For the first time in years, I’ll be making plans for Canada day locally. It feels weird.
Je t’aime beaucoul et je t’embrace ma belle mémère. T’es toujours dans mon cœur.
This post is going to be heavy – if you are a holocaust denier, I suggest you go elsewhere. I will be focusing mostly on WWII in this post.
I was spurned to write this post as I felt many people are so far removed for the Great War that the memories have faded and seem abstract. I grew up listening to the veterans – never again. Never again. Almost all veterans of WWII have died. The children of the new generations don’t know what it’s like to listen to the old ones and hear their tales of death. We MUST remember.
“It has been said, ‘time heals all wounds.’ I do not agree. The wounds remain. In time, the mind, protecting its sanity, covers them with scar tissue and the pain lessens. But it is never gone.” ― Rose Fitzgerald Kennedy
There have been two world wars. There have been many civil wars, skirmishes, political wars, cold wars. Humans have an innate ability to follow the mob – a charismatic leader takes control, tells the mob it is us versus them. The mob rules and chaos erupts.
Out of the ruins of WWII over six million Jews, homosexuals, Roma, disabled, and anyone who didn’t fit the Nazi Arian mold died in various concentration camps, ghettos, war camps. THIS is truth.
Auschwitz-Birkenau is the most infamous of the concentration camps. Below is a link to the museum and Twitter feed – the twitter feed highlights those murdered in the camp every day.
Auschwitz was not the only camp. Nazi Camps in the Holocaust Encyclopedia has a breakdown of the different types of camps from their inception in 1933 (yes, BEFORE the war started officially). Below are selected quotes from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum page on the camps.
“From its rise to power in 1933, the Nazi regime built a series of incarceration sites to imprison and eliminate real and perceived “enemies of the state.” Most prisoners in the early concentration camps were political prisoners—German Communists, Socialists, Social Democrats—as well as Roma (Gypsies), Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, and persons accused of “asocial” or socially deviant behavior. “
Re-read that – the Nazis were arresting and murdering anyone who was different.
There were even different types of camps to serve the Nazi war machine.
“Many people refer to all of the Nazi incarceration sites during the Holocaust as concentration camps. The term concentration camp is used very loosely to describe places of incarceration and murder under the Nazi regime, however, not all sites established by the Nazis were concentration camps. Nazi-established sites include:
Concentration camps: For the detention of civilians seen as real or perceived “enemies of the Reich.”
Forced-labor camps: In forced-labor camps, the Nazi regime brutally exploited the labor of prisoners for economic gain and to meet labor shortages. Prisoners lacked proper equipment, clothing, nourishment, or rest.
Transit camps: Transit camps functioned as temporary holding facilities for Jews awaiting deportation. These camps were usually the last stop before deportations to a killing center.
Prisoner-of-war camps: For Allied prisoners of war, including Poles and Soviet soldiers.
Killing centers: Established primarily or exclusively for the assembly-line style murder of large numbers of people immediately upon arrival to the site. There were 5 killing centers for the murder primarily of Jews. The term is also used to describe “euthanasia” sites for the murder of disabled patients.”
There were millions of deaths, but not just Jews. The Nazis kept impeccable documents listing all the murdered.
Number of Deaths
around 7 million (including 1.3 Soviet Jewish civilians, who are included in the 6 million figure for Jews)
Soviet prisoners of war
around 3 million (including about 50,000 Jewish soldiers)
Non-Jewish Polish civilians
around 1.8 million (including between 50,000 and 100,000 members of the Polish elites)
Serb civilians (on the territory of Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina)
People with disabilities living in institutions
up to 250,000
up to 250,000
Repeat criminal offenders and so-called asocials
at least 70,000
German political opponents and resistance activists in Axis-occupied territory
hundreds, possibly thousands (possibly also counted in part under the 70,000 repeat criminal offenders and so-called asocials noted above)
Table from the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum
First they came for the Communists And I did not speak out Because I was not a Communist
Then they came for the Socialists And I did not speak out Because I was not a Socialist
Then they came for the trade unionists And I did not speak out Because I was not a trade unionist
Then they came for the Jews And I did not speak out Because I was not a Jew
Then they came for me And there was no one left To speak out for me
The number of military and civilian casualties during the war varies. This is from the Wikipedia article on World War II Casualties “World War II was the deadliest military conflict in history. An estimated total of 70–85 million people perished, or about 3% of the 1940 world population (est. 2.3 billion). Deaths directly caused by the war (including military and civilians fatalities) are estimated at 50–56 million, with an additional estimated 19–28 million deaths from war-related disease and famine. Civilian deaths totaled 50–55 million. Military deaths from all causes totaled 21–25 million, including deaths in captivity of about 5 million prisoners of war. More than half of the total number of casualties are accounted for by the dead of the Republic of China and of the Soviet Union. The tables below give a detailed country-by-country count of human losses. Statistics on the number of military wounded are included whenever available.” Note: there is a table on the Wikipedia pages showing casualties by country as well.
There were many everyday people who took up the cause of resistance and became more than the sum of their parts. They spat in the face of fascism. They did not remain silent and placated. They screamed their resistance to the atrocities that were being done. They were true heroes. They fought for a better world, a world where ALL people are free to live as they choose.
It would take me a lifetime to write everything I could about wars. It would take a lifetime for me to write how much it hurts to see the rise of so much racism and fascism in this world now. People have forgotten. People have forgotten why so many died.
I will never forget.
In Flanders Fields
BY JOHN MCCRAE In Flanders fields the poppies blow Between the crosses, row on row, That mark our place; and in the sky The larks, still bravely singing, fly Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow, Loved and were loved, and now we lie, In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe: To you from failing hands we throw The torch; be yours to hold it high. If ye break faith with us who die We shall not sleep, though poppies grow In Flanders fields.
In three words I can sum up everything I’ve learned about life: it goes on.
– Robert Frost
Well then…it’s been a few months since I’ve posted and I can’t say they’ve been grand.
Covid has me working from home and I love it. I had no idea that working remotely would have me being more productive. It hasn’t been without it’s challenges.
Financially, I’ve heard of people saving money due to being home…all I have to say is they must not have teens!
We lost our bearded dragon, Charlie, in the Spring due to heart failure
We adopted a new pup, Dahlia! She’s almost 15 weeks and is 25 lbs already.
In April, we found out Bishop had lung cancer and his liver was herniating into his esophagus. Notice the past tense…my heart broke last week when we had to take him for his last drive and visit to the vet. I can’t talk about it yet. I miss my boy so much. He was my copilot on drives, my snuggle buddy.
Basically, my depression has been shit, my anxiety worse and my life a go-to. But! I have a home. I have happiness. I have family. I have food in my belly. I have gratitude ❤
It’s not the end of the world, even though it feels like it is sometimes.
“I wish it need not have happened in my time,” said Frodo. “So do I,” said Gandalf, “and so do all who live to see such times. But that is not for them to decide. All we have to decide is what to do with the time that is given us.” ― J.R.R. Tolkien, The Fellowship of the Ring
On Tuesday, January 21, 2020, I watched on as a brother passed to the other side. We weren’t blood related, we didn’t even meet until we were in high school. That didn’t matter.
Anthony “Tony” Forbes was an amazing person. A huge teddy bear of a man. A proud father. A best friend. A brother.
Tony used to tell me that you never say goodbye – you only say see you later. You see, he was First Nations. In his last moments on this green ball in space, he was surrounded by those who loved him and I have no doubt his ancestors were there to greet him.
I always knew that he was my heart brother. I didn’t know how much I would miss him. He was always there. We never got to see each much in person in recent years, but he was THERE.
I was honoured when his family asked me to give the eulogy, terrified, but honoured. I and others were honorary pallbearers. His children were there, his two youngest are my godchildren.
I’ve been trying to formulate a post to honour him, but honestly, my thoughts are scattered.
I miss you, Tony. I’m so sorry I wasn’t physically around more. Maybe I would have caught what was happening with your health. I’ll keep checking in on your mom and Roy. I’ll keep bugging the kids to make sure they are ok. I’ll keep Ronnie on his toes.
I love you, brother. I’ll see you on the other side.
“Why melt your life away in mourning? Why let grief eat you alive?” ― Sophocles
I had a whole post written about recent deaths my family has experienced and I realized that I wanted to celebrate life and not focus on death.
People get so wrapped up in the lives of others that we forget that WE have a life to live. Stop wasting it worrying about what your neighbour is doing in their home and focus on what you can do in yours.
Go outside, breath in that air – ok, it’s cold as fuck right now so maybe wait for a warmer day, unless you live where it’s warm than go for it.
Walk barefoot in the grass and remember that simple joy of just being when you were a kid.
Feel the glint of the sun as it dances across your eyes and feel grateful for that simple gift.
Remember to tell the ones you care about, that you do care. Don’t hide it away.
I feel like a gawddamn Hallmark card right now, but we’ve had blow after blow this past while and I just want to feel joy. Contentment. I don’t expect an epic life, but I do want a happy life. I don’t expect to be well known, but I do want those I love to remember me in happiness.
We seem to be getting told on a regular basis that unless you’re doing or having all these ‘things’ that you can’t have a meaningful happy life. Bullshit. Even the most flitting of lives have joy and meaning. Even when meaning seems lost, it’s still there. Don’t waste it by focusing on the shitty. There’s enough crap in our lives daily; if all you did was focus on the shit depression will win. I know that. It’s taken me 45 years to realize it, and it will take longer to get my brain to stop, but I get it.
K, I’m off to polish up on my sunshine and rainbows…they’ve gone a little dark over the years and need to be cleaned up.