National Memorial Arboretum part 3

We spent the whole day at the Arboretum and I don’t think we saw it all. Just as in times of conflict, it’s rare to see the whole picture, just the bits that impact you.

This memorial is dedicated to the evacuation of millions of children from our towns and cities to safer rural retreats. And to think I cried (like a lot of mums) the day Heather and Tim went to school for the first time. I can’t imagine what it must have felt like knowing your husband had been sent to fight, and your children were being sent away as well. Not knowing when you would see them again.

I think war tears people and communities apart regardless of whether or not it is thought to be “necessary”.

This is part of the Quaker memorial, pacifists who are actively conscienous objectors but equally serve our community passionately seeking peace not just in this country but across the globe.

Sadly it’s not just conflict that causes pain and there were several memorials dedicated to voluntary organisations like this garden of rememberance created for the RNLI, where I stopped to remember Adrian.

I waited a few moments before approaching this memorial because there was a lady looking at it and I didn’t want to interrupt, but it seemed appropriate to then say hello and pass a few words. It is the Gift of Life memorial and she shared her story with me. Her husband suffered a brain haemorrhage, and whilst everything was happening very quickly beyond their control, the doctors were able to recognise that even if they attempted to treat him, his quality of would be severely impaired. She knew instantly that his wishes were not to prolong his life in these circumstances and that only a week before they had both added their names to the organ donors register. He died quickly without regaining consciousness and they were able to donate both his kidneys. As he was over 60 it was not feasible to transplant his heart or lungs. So in their time of trauma, they were able to give the Gift of Life to two families. I asked if knowing this had helped her grief, and in a strange way it had. Her wish now was that we should all be more open to conversations with our families before tragic events happen and add our names to the organ donors register The memorial is of a butterfly sitting on a forget me not flower symbolizing new life and that the donor will not be forgotten.

The final memorial that we visited was the centrepiece of the Arboretum. This impressive dominating structure, reminded me of a modern day equivalent of stonehenge.  The Armed Forces Memorial bearing the names of over 15000 military names of those killed after WWII. Sadly it has space to add another 15000 names.

I have copied the words from the NMA website

The centrepiece of the Memorial is two large bronze sculptures, representing loss and sacrifice, on either side of a central bronze laurel wreath. Created by Ian Rank-Broadley, the sculptures bear silent witness to the cost of armed conflict.

To the north, a Serviceman is raised aloft on a stretcher by comrades. On either side family members look on – a mother clasped by a child and an older couple clutching each other in anguish. It bears witness to the cost of armed conflict to those left behind – the families, loved ones and friends who live with the pain and consequence of their loss for the rest of their lives.

Opposite, the body of a warrior is being prepared for burial by female and Gurkha soldiers. The figure before the double doors points to a world beyond where the warrior will rest as another figure chisels the name on the memorial.

The alignment and axis of the Memorial portray a greater meaning and draws inspiration from prehistoric monuments. At the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month the sun’s rays stream through the door of the sculpture, illuminating the wreath in the centre of the Memorial.