Post image for Vimy


by Lauren | Celiac Teen on April 13, 2012

This is something I needed to write. Something I needed to share. With eagerness, a need for it to be out there: to declare the remembrance, to express gratitude, and to send love home. Consider it an open letter, and a whole lot of love.

I feel the pull in my chest. That yank which changes how you look at the world. The one that makes you grateful, sad, and joyous. This past weekend was a profound one. I know that my words here will never do it justice, but I can try. I can show you a touch of what I saw, as I filled my memory card to the brim.

This past Monday was the 95th anniversary of Vimy Ridge. It was an important battle for the Canadians in the First World War. It was the first time all the Canadian troops had worked together, giving us a reputation as soldiers not to be messed with. It was “the birth of a nation”. So many died there, fighting for it, for us. Walking through the battlefields, up to the Canadian monument, through the cemeteries, you could feel the power of that war nearly a century later. It’s not something we can dare forget.

My uncle had mentioned that he was going to be in Vimy, for the memorial. It took all of two seconds to know that I had to go: to see him, but also to see this essential piece of Canadian history. Now, I know it was so much more. It was some of the best conversations I’ve had in a long time. It was great Canadian music (played by truly wonderful people). It was heartbreaking. It was beautiful. It is one of the weekends that I will never forget, for all of that and the tug in my chest.

It wasn’t hard to tear up, even knowing that what I saw wasn’t even the half of it. 95 years has masked so much of the death and destruction, but all that valour and emotion is still there. It’s in the air, and didn’t take long to hit home. I’m still processing so much of it, and I’m sure I will be for awhile. Thank goodness the weekend ended with a concert. It lifted spirits, showcased talent, and brought us all together.

Thank you Hugh, John, Geoffrey, Vince, Tobin, Merm, Chris, Matthew, Keith, Sarah, Tim, Kinley, Phil, Emmet, Adam, Josh, Romesh, Katie, Mr. Johnston, everyone at EF, the Easter bunnies, Arras, Lievin, Vimy, all the Veterans, and everyone else whose path I crossed this weekend. I know I’m missing so many names, but thank you all. You’ve left an impression.

Even sculptures on the monument were weeping. Drops fell from the sky, and we each wandered in our own way, reading the names of those without a gravestone. So many names carved into the stone. Lines of last names. Of my last name, and names of those I love. There was even an L. McMillan. It doesn’t hit closer to home than that.

How does one put into words a cemetery? So many lives, so many stories. Pleas on tombstones from mothers. Stones without a name, regiment or anything to say who they were. Boys buried under my feet, even younger that I.

The landscape had such charge. Unnatural, with craters everywhere. You could imagine the war’s destruction, while also not having a clue of what it entailed. The ground which still holds unexploded munitions, that must be taken away with the freezing and thawing each year.

The trenches. Where so many soldiers would have worked. Where my great-grandfather likely put his master builder skillset to work. Where there would have been order, valour, and chaos.

Some of the heavy stuff was broken up by walks. Getting lost in Arras, stumbling upon randomness and beauty. J’ai trouvé architecture surprisingly different from what I see each day in the Alps. J’ai aussi parlé plus d’anglais que tous les autres week-ends en France.

Hey Rosetta! Kind, wonderful people playing great music, and putting on a marvelous show.

Spirit of the West. Fabulous music played and performed by kind, wonderful people.

There you have it. Some snippets from this weekend. Add a mini Easter egg hunt, a handful of fantastic meals, and great conversations, you have a trip unlike anything I’ve experienced thus far. Merci à tout le monde qui était là. I hope that our paths cross again sometime soon.


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{ 10 comments… read them below or add one }

Erica Lea April 13, 2012 at 9:50 am

Looks like an amazing adventure, Lauren! :)

Tobin Frank April 13, 2012 at 10:41 am

Hey Lauren!

Fantastic photos and writeups! It was great having you join us for this little tour. (is one show a tour?)

Do you mind if I snag a couple of those photos to put on the SOTW Facebook page?


Isabelle April 13, 2012 at 4:49 pm

Beautiful photos and thoughts, Lauren. I really hope to visit the Vimy memorial one day. Have you read the novel The Stone Angel by Margaret Laurence? It offers a really interesting perspective on Vimy. Also, I recognized Tim from Hey Rosetta on stage! My friend Kinley is the violinist, I had no idea they were there for the anniversary. What a great band eh?? One of my faves.

Lauren | Celiac Teen April 14, 2012 at 2:03 am

Isabelle, no I have not! Will have to look it up when I get back home. Ah! The world is so small- Kinley is such a sweetheart. Yes! Such a great band.

Tobin, it was a treat to tag along. Thank you.

Donna April 14, 2012 at 3:04 pm

Very touching story, and when I looked at the pictures it reminded me of the Civil War. My husband and I went to Gettysburg, PA where they fought for three days, and we visited the cemetery where so many young men were buried. They had buried 20 unknown men in mass graves, and there were several graves like that. It was a very somber experience. The fields where they fought are still the same, with no buildings on them. They do have monuments all over the fields with names, and what outfits fought in the different areas. My relatives are from Quebec, but I lived in Maine, and don’t speak French. I wish now I knew how, but since we lived in a community that spoke only English, that was the language they wanted us to learn.

Lynne April 15, 2012 at 10:48 pm

Wow. Thanks for posting all the great pics Lauren. Someday I would like to visit Normandy where my Dad landed in WWII. You are having a great adventure. So glad you are learning about History too! Safe journeys!

Jen Raiche April 23, 2012 at 3:03 pm

You are so fortunate to have this opportunity. My Uncle fought (but didn’t die) at Vimy Ridge, and it’s been my dream to go there. There are 3 other books to recommend:”Vimy” by Pierre Berton, “The Wars” by Timothy Findley, and “Back to the Front: an Accidental Historian Walks the Trenches of World War I” by Stephen O’Shea.

Rebecca April 25, 2012 at 4:28 am

Being canadian and walking through Vimy must feel so surreal, I have seen similar pictures before at school of others who have visited the grounds. It reminds me how we all should visit places with such historical significance, Vimy (along with Beaumont Hamel) are definitely on my list of must see places.

p.s. I hope you enjoyed Hey Rosetta! I love them, they’re one of my favorite bands.

Allison April 28, 2012 at 2:39 pm

Isn’t Vimy incredible?
I was there just last year as part of a school group… it was so emotional to know that thousands of young men, many the age of the students that I was with, died on that battlefield. As a teacher, I made sure to keep a sombre, respectful exterior for my students, yet inside I felt like my stomach was tying itself in knots… so powerful in sadness and yet there is also the patriotism – I wish there was some way to tell those young men just how proud of them we still are, how much their sacrifice means to us…

The monument is beautiful and fitting… you are quite right, the sculptures weep. I had to take a moment for myself when one of our students, a cadet and a piper, starting playing ‘Amazing Grace’ beside the monument.

It would have been incredible to be there for the 95th anniversary… perhaps I’ll make it back for the 100th anniversary ceremonies.

Thanks for sharing.

Susan Mortensen July 12, 2012 at 1:16 pm

I found your website through a link on gluten free girl today and have been wandering through your recipes when I stumbled upon this entry. My husband and I lived in Arras for 4 years (we have been back in the U.S. for 7 yrs. now) but as soon as I saw the vimy pictures I was taken back there immediately. We visited there often during our time, both with guest and on our own. It was a magnificent memorial.
Then hotel de ville and the place from Arras. Just wanted to say thanks for the trip down memory lane. And I am looking forward to trying out some of your recipe.

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