Wednesday, November 11, 2009

Lest We Forget

It's Remembrance Day here in Canada.

On a day where veterans, officials, and the appreciative lay wreaths upon cenotaphs and graves, I bring back to you one of my earlier posts.

Where I lay my wreath of words at the ground of one very special veteran I had the honor to know.
Goodbye, Sam

How many of you know a person who truly embodies the phrase "lovely"?

How many of you know a person who is truly all that a "gentleman" should be?

Simple yet difficult questions. Fortunately for me, I know a man who was both of those things, every day of his life. His name was Sam Segal, and his long, meaningful life on earth came to an end last Wednesday.

Please realize that I am not related to Sam Segal. I was not a family friend. At best, I was the slightest of acquaintances - I only had a few short conversations with the man. But he and I went to the same house of worship, and I had the privilege to witness firsthand his magical effect over anyone who came through the doors. It was nothing short of wondrous. Every weekend, there he stood at his (self) elected post, standing tall, looking sharp, always immaculate in his grooming, with a carnation in his suit lapel. Here was our ambassador, who greeted everyone - young, old, skittish, devoted, humble, haughty - with the same warm greeting: "Welcome. We're glad you're here." He smiled with his eyes, and he made everyone immediately feel like they'd made the most important, most correct decision of their lives to be there that morning. He initiated the worship process right at the front foyer, immediately filling everyone with a sense of belonging.

To speak with Sam was to be engaged in a conversation with a lovely soul. He took your hand every time you spoke with him. Here was such a decent man, you immediately felt better in his company. I never heard him say a negative thing about anyone - and in a culture where everyone seems to have something to say about someone - he kept his criticisms to himself. In doing so, you naturally felt compelled to follow suit.

What I learned at his funeral was nothing more than I expected, yet in the articulation of all that he was and all that he had done, it became strikingly evident that this dear man had a huge impact on everyone he knew. I know one of his daughters - she, too, is lovely and strong, and a gentlewoman of her own making. Her graveside stories were neither maudlin nor sad, but a beautiful heartfelt tribute.

Sam, like many young men of his time, served his country in World War II. While many who came home chose to forget that part of their past, Sam instead chose to become involved in a Legion club. Every year, he would organize a Remembrance Day Service during which a list of his fallen comrades was read, followed with "The Last Post" being played during a minute of quiet reflection. One of most emotional things I have ever witnessed took place at Sam's funeral; many of his Legion friends were there, wearing their Remembrance Day poppies. Keep in mind that most of these gentleman (and lady) are in their 80's and early 90's, so their attendance on a cold, icy, winter day was no small feat.

One by one, they approached his casket and removed their poppy and laid it to rest, along with Sam. "The Last Post" was then played, as these veterans stood at salute and sent their friend off. Even now as I write this, I'm still overcome by the power of the symbolism of this gesture. Steadfast loyalty to country, to family, to friends, to religion, to responsibility - this was who Sam Segal was, and it is who we should all aspire to be.

Sam, may you find your heaven with Melva, and continue to be an inspiration to all who knew you. I'm a better person for having known you.

It's a day to take pause - for the merest of moments - and recognize the magnitude of influence that all servicemen and women have had in our lives. It is they who truly have given of themselves to protect their countries.

Our countries.

So today I urge you to give the merest of moments.

Lest we forget.


Diane said...

What a lovely remembrance, Shelley. I think people like Sam are part of makes us try to be a better person while we're on this earth.

Chesapeake Bay Woman said...

Oh, what a beautiful tribute.

Noe Noe Girl...A Queen of all Trades. said...

I knew a man like Sam. Chuck was my father in law!
Lovely post Baroness! May we NEVER forget!

Not Afraid to Use It said...

What a lovely, lovely post Baroness. It is important everyone have someone like him in our lives. And I am so appreciative that you mentioned countries. Plural. I am not impressed with the oft heard US version of "we single-handedly saved the world".

Country Girl said...

This is one of the most beautiful posts I've read in awhile. I love the cadence of your writing, always have.

Mark said...

I just checked in and was so sadden to learn of Sams passing. I will never forget his and Joan's Bnai Mitzvah...what incredible people..I will miss knowing Sam is not at his post but I will be gladden knowing he is with the love of his life...this is countess yy not mb

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