This weekend is the 70th anniversary of the Dunkirk rescue in 1940. The BBC is being great about showing the old soldiers who were there the respect they deserve and I for one am thankful for that. I have a personal reason for this: my paternal grandfather was one of the lucky ones and he never forgot.
Sadly, I never spoke to him about his experiences of that time. I think perhaps it would have been too painful for him to recall all the details to me, anyway. But as I sat and watched the BBC’s coverage of the event, I know he was with me and still is. All I wanted, as I listened to Churchill’s speech at the end of the programme, was to give my old granddad a hug. But I couldn’t. He passed away when I was 18 and I was one of the last people to see him (he asked my dad if I would go and visit him one last time, but said he would understand if I didn’t want to see him when he was dying – of course I went – I loved him). A couple of days after I’d visited, he died.
He was a real character, whose wicked sense of humour he passed to my dad and, through him, to me. He had piercing eyes that sparkled, threatening mischief at every turn. He would write letters to thank the school for the gifts during the Harvest Festival, which would be read out from the stage, making me so proud to be the granddaughter of such a polite and respectful man who never took anything for granted. I have a feeling that Dunkirk had a hand in that. Once you’ve survived such a horrible time, you could take nothing for granted ever again. Life is short, delicate and very precious. Sometimes it takes something drastic, such as looking death in the face, to really understand the truth of that.
So, this is a short entry. I only want to remind everyone that nothing in life is free except love and there is nothing more precious than the love of family and friends. None of us can afford to take that for granted. Granddad – here’s to you – I miss you.