Please read Lindor Reynold’s letter to her readers, and share with all those who wish to offer thoughts and prayers.

On a personal note, Lindor, nobody connected as effectively as you.  During these important days, the whole world is getting to know your beautiful heart – Charles Adler

Winnipeg Free Press – PRINT EDITION

Thanks for letting me into your lives

By: Lindor Reynolds

Longtime Winnipeg Free Press columnist Lindor Reynolds prepares to leave Riverview Health Centre to attend her daughter's wedding earlier this month.

Photo by RUTH BONNEVILLE / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS (Longtime Winnipeg Free Press columnist Lindor Reynolds prepares to leave Riverview Health Centre to attend her daughter’s wedding earlier this month.)

It would be an understatement to say that a year ago, I got a kick in the teeth when I was diagnosed with brain cancer.

Now, I can no longer brush my own teeth.

My new mailing address is Riverview Health Centre, where I have come to die, although you’re not supposed to say that here.

When they brought me here, they promised I would never feel pain again, and they have been pretty true to that. When there is pain, there is a kind nurse with a needle and a machine to lift my sore, useless body into a wheelchair.

I can no longer walk independently. I hate the loss of independence, of needing someone to wash me and help with basic bodily functions. When you need someone to wash your face for you, it’s a new low. I feel I’ve ceased to be me, and it’s hard not to spend every day crying.

There have been some celebrations this year. My daughter got married last week, and I was able to attend. After days of practice sitting up in a wheelchair, the staff deemed me ready to go. Another decision was made for me.

But what has the past year meant? Have I had insights available only to those who have the curtain lifted back to reveal some deep meaning? I’m reminded of the observation Randy Pausch made when he wrote The Last Lecture; simply that time is all you’ve got until you realize you have a finite amount.

My Christian faith has carried me through. It’s stronger than it ever was. My church family has been there for me. All around my room are things from them, both from the church I attend now — Holy Trinity — and the one I used to attend, St. Vital’s St. Mary Magdalene Anglican Church.

The thing I struggle to get across is how useless I feel physically… and intellectually.

I suppose I’m not entirely useless. I’ve been able to find meaning in fundraising. I started a campaign to build a school in Kenya through a program of Free the Children run by Craig and Marc Kielburger. A garden party to raise money pushed the campaign over the top. Enough was raised for three schools.

But truthfully? It was an act of selfishness that allowed me to give back. I say an act of selfishness because I did it for me. I didn’t do it for Kenya. Is that insightful? Maybe, but I don’t think I’m capable of being insightful right now.

Insight? I wish I hadn’t smoked as a teenager, but I don’t think I gave myself cancer.

I do know this: Choose your friends carefully. They’re the ones who’ll be wiping drool off your chin.

Something you should know: People have to laugh at your jokes when you have cancer.

I’ve discovered how insanely insecure I am, how much affirmation I need.

I have been unable to do any writing. I miss that like crazy, of course. But what it has made me realize is how very much I miss you, the readers.

A year ago, I wrote a column telling you about this diagnosis and that I would be out of touch for a while as I fought the monsters. Please know you have been the greatest gift to me.

You have allowed me into your homes, your lives as I have done this most marvellous of jobs. We have laughed, cried, been angry, and in the end, been a little bit better from our connections. I know I have.

I was thrilled to be offered the chance to write this. It was the best gift Free Press editor Paul Samyn could have given me, other than the chocolate.

Let Us Never Break Faith With Those Who Died For Us – by Charles Adler

If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Woke up with those words this morning I just wanted to find a way to let people know that we can never break faith with those who die in service of this great country. Never.

Without them, we have no Canada – and no opportunity to share what we do every day. I was tweeting about this on the weekend after reading a tremendous piece by Randy Turner of the Winnipeg Free Press. He wrote about an old vet, the last remaining World War II vet in Winkler. The piece is called a Soldier Shunned. Can you imagine what it must have been like in the 1940’s in Winkler, Manitoba where almost everybody was a church-going Mennonite, where everyone was instructed to believe that being a warrior was breaking faith with God. Even in a war that was to end all Wars. Even in a war that was in defense of freedom. Look, I am not here to cast stones upon anybody’s religion. But can you imagine the feeling of isolation you have in a small Manitoba town when almost everybody in town sees you as unworthy, when everyone wants to shun you, turn their heads away from you because you have chosen to serve your country? Today we do not break faith with those who die. We keep the faith.

Last week on the show we aired, as I do every year, And the Band Played Waltzing Matilda, which is to some an anti-war anthem written by Ireland’s Eric Bogle. I don’t play it to diss Remembrance Day but rather the opposite – to honour the physical, psychological and spiritual pain that many young men suffered. In this song Bogle writes about a young Aussie who serves his country, serves the British Empire in the Great War. The Turks are on the other side of history. They’re allied with Germany, with the Kaiser. A great battle takes place in Gallipoli where the Aussies are in the words of the writer, butchered like lambs to the slaughter. The soldier writes about the pain of surviving the slaughter:

And those that were left, well we tried to survive, in that mad world of blood, death and fire
And for ten weary weeks, I kept myself alive, though around me the corpses piled higher
Then a big Turkish shell knocked me arse over head, and when I woke up in my hospital bed,
And saw what it had done, well I wished I was dead. Never knew there was worse things than dyin’.

How can anything be worse than dyin’ we ask. And the soldier answers by talking about a different kind of shunning than took place in Winkler. Not shunned because he served, but shunned because of his horrific wounds. He talks about the crowd of Aussies turning out to welcome home their heroes, but turning their backs on some of the soldiers whose wounds were too ugly for the naked human eye. This shunned soldier says:

And as our ship pulled into Circular Quay, I looked at the place where me legs used to be. And thanked Christ there was nobody waiting for me, to grieve, to mourn, and to pity.

As we say the words Lest We Forget and while we listen to “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 know that there are many who don’t get it, who don’t understand the pain of sacrifice.

We live in a world where it’s all about immediate gratification. We want to be able to push a button and see something beautiful. We want to pop a pill and feel something pleasurable. We want what we want and we want it now. Immediate gratification. The people we honour today weren’t looking to experience beauty. They were doing their duty to country. Our country. There was no gratification.

Those who oppose what we do today, say we are glorifying war. We are not glorifying anything. We are respecting the dead in Flanders Fields and all the fields where they lay. We are not glorifying violence. We are honouring tolerance. We fought the intolerant foe, not once but twice in the World Wars, and we fought in Korea, and we fought in Afghanistan, and we fight today for the dignity of all men and women and boys and girls, no matter their creed or colour.

Our heroes weren’t looking to conquer land or people. They weren’t looking to enrich themselves. They were serving a cause greater than their individual selves. Were they better than us? In many ways they were. Let’s just be honest about that, and honour our betters, our warriors, our veterans.

If ye break faith with us who die,
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields

Let us never break faith with the most loyal friends Canada has ever had.

Lest we Forget.