I know you know the missing word, and I know you know that I know the missing word too.
‘Lest we forget’ matters. In World War One 65 million men were mobilized to fight and 1 in 3 were either killed or injured. Wilfred Owen immortalised them as those ‘who die as cattle’ because he saw it, he heard it, he smelt it, he lived it and in the end he died it too.
The pain, the trauma, the horror, the brutality of the conflict are etched in the phrase ‘Lest we forget’, but it is not enough to merely not forget. For those who died and for those who continued to live in the shadow of that indescribable experience needed more than just not being forgotten. They needed being remembered.
This is why the phrase ‘We will remember them’ is so valuable. It says that from this moment on, this act of remembering will mould and shape who we are today and who we will be in the future. The immediate fruit of this remembering was the building of war memorials to remember those who died and to remember them so that such a horror would never happen again. One consequence of this fear of ever having to fight such a war again was the frailty to resist evil. Sadly, this played its role in allowing such a conflict to happen again.
‘We will remember’ is etched not only on stone crosses and memorials; it is etched on many tables too. This ‘We will remember’ focuses on a different death.
It is the death of a lone man not in combat but on an executioners gibbet. It is a death shaped not by the cry of ‘Why?’ but ‘It is finished’. It is a cry that says the victory has been won. It is a cry that says the reign of sin, death and the enemy has been broken. It is a cry that says life will reign instead. It is a cry that says love has triumphed.
It is all too easy to allow ‘We will remember’ to mean only one thing. As important as it is to remember those countless millions slaughtered so horribly, so we must equally remember this one man’s death too. To forget his death is to say that death has triumphed, that hope and love are as transient as the mist and that they, and he, died for nothing.
But this is not so. His blood was shed that we may live free from sin, death and the enemy. His blood was shed that we may live lives of hope. His blood was shed that we may know this world will not always be like this. For one day there will be no more death. One day there will be no more tears. One day there will be no more sorrow. One day there will be no more pain. One day there will be no more the world will be made anew and all will be well.