THERE are some Christmas gifts money can’t buy, only love will do.
I ‘bought’ one such gift for my dad when I took him to St Cuthbert’s church in Bedlington to visit the Memorial Chapel for Servicemen and Women lost in World War One.
Dad’s Christmas treat was to view for the first time his grandfather’s 1916 entry in the chapel’s precious register of enlistment; a special gift – discovering the chapel and handling this lovely old book – made possible by my dear friend Brian, who knew how much it would mean to my old feller.
My great-grandfather never returned from France: he was killed in action the following year, leaving a widow with seven children back home in Bedlington, a town which lost double the national average of men. In some streets, they say, every house experienced loss on the same day.
My great granny must have had a hard life. She scrubbed floors to make ends meet, my dad recalls. She had to, with seven young mouths to feed. One of those children was to become my grandfather. He, too, died young, aged just 46.
Looking at the names of all those Northumberland Fusiliers, many of them next-door-neighbours, and thinking of the families they left behind brings home the sense of sacrifice, especially at this time of year. All so we could have the life we have now.
Lest we forget: every man and woman who died, every widow who bravely swallowed her tears and carried on – be they Brits, ANZACS, Yanks or any of the many, many other nationalities – did so that we might be free to enjoy future festive seasons in freedom.
I hope you enjoyed Christmas and that you’ll be in fine festive spirit this New Year’s Eve.
But when you’re toasting the future, raise a glass, too, for those who made the supreme sacrifice.