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The 100 Year Connection

10/11/2014 09:50

My heart can barely contain itself as I sit in my family room looking with love outpouring & gratitude that cannot be described in words ever.  A dear homemade book created by my Aunt who I am named after is open to the third page of the book.  This page has a picture of my grandpa MacDonald who was 17 years old in France with the trenches in the background during World War 1. 

Three years ago my Aunt Saundra surprised me with the book that she had lovingly created of my Grandpa’s life.  There are no words beyond cherished treasure to fully say how much I love this book.  Every November I sit with this book & look at that young face…a face that is only 3 years older than my oldest son.  What he & so many soldiers went through…the hell of war that I & so many others will never grasp.  How do you go to war & come back the same?  Perhaps you don’t.  It seems as though there is a tendency for war to not be spoken of too much by soldiers who return home.  Maybe the reason for that is twofold:  the soldiers do not want to bring that world to his or her loved ones and or it is just too painful to speak about.  It is my belief that our loved ones who fought in the wars do not know anything other than to protect us always in one form or another.  It is a large part of who they are I believe.  It is not just during the month of November that I bring this breathtaking book out…I bring it out throughout the year.  There really are no words to describe what it feels like to know my grandpa’s story.

There are countless stories of protectors, heroes… our courageous soldiers.  Every single story deserves to be told.  Many of us have someone in our lives that has either been a soldier at war in world war 1 or world war 2 or any of the other wars up to & including today.  If each one of us shared a story of a loved one wouldn’t that be the beginning of honouring the profound heroes that protected & protect us still. 

A friend of mine shared with me a long time ago that it is impossible to be thankful & unhappy at the same time.  The friend told me that as long as a person hangs onto gratitude every day that no matter what happens in life, joy can be sustained.  Each one of us is a beautiful original so we each can answer for ourselves if we find this to be our personal experience.  I have found that gratitude makes all the difference in the world.  It is also a perspective builder in my life.  This week I received negative news regarding my diabetes management & I felt myself going to that place of feeling a mini defeat.  I never stay there for long yet I also know that the length that I remain in that state of defeat depends upon my own mindset & actions.  If I do nothing & just let time pass nothing for me changes.  That is kind of why when I hear people sometimes say that “time heals all wounds” I think that is pretty much a crock.  In my experience, time can sometimes make things worse without some form of new action.  To me that means having ways to pull myself out of the well of defeat versus just waiting there to be rescued or not.  This recent feeling of mini defeat had an instant & natural antidote.  The answer came in the form of me just naturally picking up this book of my grandpa’s story & looking at his 17 year old face in his Canadian soldier’s uniform with the trenches in the background of the picture.  Do you know what I see in his face?  I see determination.  How do you do that at 17 years old?  I will never understand that.  I look at that face & I think to myself that boy later came home, married my grandma & had children of his own & later became a grandpa to 3 granddaughters & 3 grandsons.  Grandpa MacDonald is within each one of the 6 grandchildren & of course his own children too.  As I look at his face in the photo, I instantly feel strength & absolutely no defeat remains within me.  Strength I have found is renewable.  I will go & look at this photo often especially after today because I cannot believe how strong I feel.  That is powerful to look at a photo from exactly 100 years ago & receive strength!

I do not remember “knowing” my Grandpa MacDonald but I do know him now.  Grandpa died when I was just 2 years old yet I feel his strength & he has been a protector throughout many times in our extended families’ lives.  I have felt his protection & I see the bonds there very much, very strong & without doubt.  My Grandpa’s parents not too surprisingly were from Scotland…the Isle of Skye.  My great grandparents settled first in PEI & then moved to a very small town in Ontario called Lucknow. My grandpa was the first of his siblings to be born in Canada.  The farmhouse & surrounding land that my grandpa grew up on are owned by one of my cousins & to this day family reunions are held there every couple of years.  My grandpa I know would love that!  He was very much a family man.  My grandpa’s given name was William John but everyone called him Jack.  He was the 8th child of a family of 12 siblings (6 daughters & 6 sons).  Our youngest son was born on my grandpa’s birthday & he has so many of my grandpa’s characteristics including an absolute passion for fishing.  As a beautiful aside, our youngest son Alex (middle name Jack) was at the department store about 4 years ago & he saw a hat & insisted that it needed to be his fishing hat & would I please get that exact one.  I did buy it for him & he continues to wear it to this day.  The first time Alex showed up to fish with my Dad, my Dad was overcome with happiness as he shared with Alex & I that his Dad had exactly the same hat for his fishing hat.  Thanks Grandpa & yes we sure know you are sending your love to the whole family in countless ways.  From a distance can you help to keep your family close to one another?  Yes, Grandpa proves  that this is big time possible!

Two mind stretching, heart stretching things happened this year to bring Remembrance Day to an even more present feeling & grateful state.  The first one was that last March I gave my husband the dvd set of “Band of Brothers” as a birthday gift.  My husband has watched it 3 times already.  He was very surprised when I sat down to watch it with him & then said that I wanted to watch the whole thing with him.  It was difficult to watch yet it should have been that way.  If you have not yet watched this, please do.  It is beyond well done.  The soldiers who were interviewed even stated that the mini series was flawless in its depiction of world war 2.  My Grandpa Brown was a sergeant in world war 2 & it horrified me to watch the dvd set yet I needed to see it to get even a small feeling of how much honour & thankfulness is deserving our hero protectors past & present.  The second thing that happened this year to stretch both my mind & heart was during a recent trip with my family on Canadian Thanksgiving weekend.  Our trip was for 4 days so I did what a lot of parents do in advance of the trip:  plan almost every waking hour of it.  The first morning we woke up & first thing on the list was to visit the War Museum & I had allotted 2-3 hours for that.  After that I had planned 2 more outings prior to dinner.  On the drive to the museum my heart was filled with the honour that I feel always towards our protector heroes & it was magnified as the lamp posts were lined with commemorative flags for the 100 year anniversary of world war 1.  Once we arrived at the museum & my husband & I saw just how engaged our whole family was with the exhibit it became evident quickly that 2-3 hours was not going to do this outstanding place honour.  We were not about to do the almost drive through tour of the museum.  What kind of experience would that really be on many levels?  As a family we all agreed that the other 2 activities would be postponed for another trip in the future & that we would allot most of the day to this incredible museum.  There is a very spectacular display of world war 1 that frankly I could have spent the entire day in.  Every single war from the very beginning of time in Canada to present is represented in the museum.  There were 3 parts of the world war 1 part that literally brought me to tears.  One is that there is an area that has been built as a replica to what the trenches looked like & you can walk through that & get a small sense of what they would have been like.  It is a very real feeling.  Thank you Grandpa MacDonald & all the other hero protectors for living in those conditions of hell…always wet, cold, living in mud with all types of creatures with the unthinkable going on all around them.  The second area is a replica built of Pachendale.  You sure felt like you were there.  I really cannot even write more about it as I cannot do it honour.  If you get a chance, please go & see it for yourself.  The third area brought tears not only to my eyes but also to the eyes of all 3 of our sons.  There is an area within the world war 1 exhibit that you can go onto the computer & look up the sign up forms of all the soldiers in Canada.  I typed in my Grandpa’s name & up came his registration in his handwriting.  It was surreal & profoundly impactful & heart wrenching.  He like so many young men of that time “fudged” his age so that he could enlist.  He was only 17 years old yet at that time was more grown up than I know I will ever be.  The 100 year connection began of course really 117 years ago…on January 15th the day my Dear Heart Grandpa was born.  What a beautiful legacy he left.  He did not or does not merely leave us each with fond thoughts but rather with a thread of love that is passionately alive.  His legacy is love of family & it remains strong.  Maybe just maybe that is where my sentimental heart truly came from xo. 


Thank you Grandpa every single day for risking your life to stand up for what is right in the world.  Thank you for your love of family.  I can still learn so much from you every single day.  Thank you for having a pioneer’s vision, a love of reading, and sharing your love of fishing not only with your son but to your great grandsons to this very day too!  Thank you Grandpa for somehow being able to right now tell me that defeat is not an option.  That is not who you were & that is not who I am either Grandpa.  The best way of honouring grandpa right now I feel with all my heart is to share the written words shared by my Dad, grandpa’s son:  “I can still vividly see Dad’s silhouette, in his fishing hat & chest waders, with that infamous creel strapped around his waist, working the fly (fishing rod) to the desired target.  Then see his 9 foot split bamboo fly rod bow, after a scrappy  speckle boils the water & strikes his fly rod & the fight is on…so I’m hooked again & look forward to sharing more great & memorable fishing experiences with my precious grandsons.”  Grandpa I am told had a gentle yet determined patience & when it came to fishing he did have a bring it on when it came to a feisty battle or 2 with fishing.  Maybe that is where I learned that a little or a lot of the feisty spirit well directed can be a great thing. My grandpa sustained lifelong health altering effects from the gas from the enemy during the war.  He returned home & was hospitalized & the family was told that he would not make it.  Guess what; of course he did make it otherwise I would not be sitting here today honouring my Dear Heart grandpa in this small yet loving way.  He just did not have defeat within his nature.   Type 1 diabetes is not war yet I admit at times that I have referred to some days as being hellish.  War is hell.  Type 1 diabetes is for sure a feisty fight.  Okay, Grandpa, you are right…no defeat…just give the diabetes too some more feisty fight.

In honour of my everyday hero, Jack MacDonald xo.

Saundie xo

Tomorrow is officially Remembrance Day yet every day I am big time grateful to our every day protectors.  Next Monday's blog sharing is "Mother Nature vs Human Nature."  :)