This Week at Trinity, Beamsville
Friday, November 9, 2018
This week, I’ve been thinking often about a man named Bill Reid. For years I knew him only as ‘The Singing Veteran’, as he was and is dubbed by those passing through the tunnels of Appleby GO. For more years than even he can say for sure, but always for the two weeks prior to Remembrance Day, Bill has stood in the usually cold cement pathways taking commuters to their platforms, and brought everything to a different plane with his extraordinary voice.
Once a global-trotting opera singer, then a teacher and principal, Bill was once a Halifax boy in the midst of World War II, who then chose for his first vocation the Canadian Navy, in the footsteps of his father and grandfather. In all the years since, Bill has found his greatest peace and joy in bringing music to others’ lives, and so it is that he faithfully stands, in his veteran’s uniform and Legion box of poppies, serenading all who pass by with haunting wartime melodies, and singing most loudly for those who stop to receive the red symbol of remembrance. You see, Bill’s primary aim in being in that tunnel, from pre-dawn till well after rush hour recedes, is to ground his audience not in his voice but in the memory of those who served that we might journey in peace. He delights in the privilege of placing poppy after poppy on lapels of those who have no memory of war; even moreso on those who do.
I could probably have told you most of the above from what I’ve observed and read in local media. However, those pieces about Bill’s earliest days and his ongoing delight are grounded in a very personal conversation. He and his wife, and Michael and me all ended up at the same wedding last month. I was the officiant; they are the groom’s honourary grandparents. We were seated all together for the reception, leaving us privy to a far better understanding of who Bill is and what motivates him still.
In the days to come, as we move closer to the somber beauty of Remembrance Day, there will be countless stories of veterans just like Bill. They may not sing in the same dulcet tones, and I suspect many will choose to remain in the quiet of anonymity, but I am certain that we are indebted to them all. With courage I do not have, they have served and they have accepted postings in the bleakest of spaces, and they’ve done it all with a greater peace in mind.
For the peace in which we live; for the peace that Jesus prayed for all the world; for the peace that might only come when we stop to hear another’s sacred voice, O God, give us wisdom and courage to pursue its realization… on earth as it is in heaven.
Grace and peace to you all,
They shall not grow old as we that are left grow old.
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning,
we will remember them.
(The Traditional Act of Remembrance)