Life is a game of inches.
It comes down to close calls and near misses. They all lead to what-ifs.
Each year I accompany my Grandmother Pearl to the graveyards between Admiral Rock and Lattie’s Brook. It’s here, she, as part of the ladies’ auxiallary of the Shubenacadie Legion Branch #111, places Canadian flags on the graves of Veterans who have passed. Some in the line of duty, others after returning home and leading long, fruitful lives. This year she placed 65 flags in remembrance.
It was during our trip to the small cemetery in South Maitland I learned a lesson in just how lucky I am.
My grandmother told a story about my grandfather’s experience in the Second World War. His was one not unlike millions of others, which solidifies the intensity of the story for myself even more.
She shared the story of a conversation between my grandfather and one of his best friends from home: Pte. L.W. Robinson. The two were talking about being back in Nova Scotia and home with family in time for the upcoming holidays, they shared their excitement about returning home, to normal life, a warm bed, and the general comforts that come with being back home.
Immediately following that conversation, while the two were sitting side by side, a German sniper killed my grandfather’s friend. No warning, just one shot and a life ended. My grandfather’s life was changed with the passing of his good friend from back home in Urbania.
If that gunman had aimed just inches in the other direction, life as I know it wouldn’t be. Life, for me, wouldn’t be. My grandfather would have never came home, never met my grandmother, and never had their five children. My cousins and I wouldn’t have been created with the life we know now, and thinking about the differences created by that gunman’s choice of inches can be staggering and overwhelming at times.
Who would I have been? What would my family look like if William Cameron wasn’t my grandfather, if he had have been the one to been shot?
My grandparents had five children. Each, having children of their own, amassing to 12 grandchildren, and now there is a whole troop of great-grandchildren as well. Who would we all be without those inches between the two men in the line of duty?
And while I question the would haves and could haves for my family, I can’t also help but question, who is the family that never got to be?
Who would Robinson have married? Had children with? Was he sweet on someone back home that was waiting for him? What if his children could have been amazing people who cured cancer or made amazing developments and changes for our world? Who are they not because…I am?
I feel an obligation, not only to my grandfather for serving, but also to Pte. L.W. Robinson to honour my freedom. To live my life to the fullest potential that they allowed it to have. For John, for my grandfather, for every Veteran past and present.
This story isn’t exception. There is a whole generation out there because of close calls and near misses. It makes me realize that the fight for our freedom still goes on. Each one of us needs to live to our potential, not just for the Veterans in our lives, not just for the fallen soldiers, but for all of the families who never were, and never will be, because of a matter of inches.
Remember that when life gets you down. You’re here. You’re free, and even though times get tough, make the best out of every situation possible.
Be kind, be thankful, and honour them.
As my grandmother and I placed the flags on the gravestones of Veterans this year, I took a little extra time at the foot of Robinson’s stone. I made a promise that I would not make his sacrifice be in vain, nor would I ever allow myself to forget that this time, my family was on the right side of the game of inches.