Saturday, November 14, 2015

Honoring our Dad — “Dutch” Pammett — Chalice Lighting 2015

Coincident with a long weekend visit from my sister Nanci and her husband Art Phelan, Nanci and I wrote and delivered the Veterans’ Day tribute you see below as part of what we call the “Chalice Lighting” ceremony at our First Parish Church (Unitarian Universalist) — a Welcoming Church in Groton, Ma.
Good Morning, I'm Kevin Pammett –
         and I’m Kevin’s sister, Nanci Phelan from Canada.
[kp] It is our privilege to light the chalice this morning in honor of Veterans’ Day and also to honour our father, Harold “Dutch” Percy Pammett who was a veteran in the Canadian Navy during WWII.
[np] For us, Remembrance Day will always have a special meaning because Dad passed away on that day in 1981. He was out golfing on a sunny autumn morning’ having just beaten my mom in a game of gin rummy. I was sitting on the couch with my young children, watching the Remembrance Day service on TV, when I got the phone call. It was a sad shock but over the years we’ve found comfort, healing and a kind of dignity in the coincidence and in the memory.
[kp] For me, it is now more than half of my life ago that Dad died – imagine – a heart attack while he was doing what he loved ! … Among the major life lessons I learned from my Dad – because he died at the young age of 61 – was this: All we really can count on is living every day to the fullest – because “Tomorrow is promised to no one.”

In addition, I hold my Father honorably as a real life example of the many hundreds of thousands of men and women who have given their lives and who continue to give everything of themselves – in the service of their country.
[np] Another Remembrance Day memory occurred in 1999 when I was chosen to lay a wreath on the Cenotaph in Ottawa, for the Canadian Federation of University Women. It was a wonderful and exhilarating service on a crisp, sunny morning under a cloudless blue sky. To my right was a sickly old man on an electronic scooter, outfitted with a Canadian Flag. There were throngs of people and vets in a great array of uniforms. We were in front of the Peace Tower and beside the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. The Canadian Snowbirds, who are famous worldwide for their aeronautics, did a fly past salute. It was an honour to be part of such a poignant and venerable celebration. I was deeply moved by the immensity of what war had wrought. Remembrance Day took on a meaning beyond the personal and a poem took shape.
[kp] This year, since Nanci and her husband were visiting us for the long weekend, we had the opportunity to forge another treasured Veterans’ Day memory by going to the Waterfire event in Providence where they held a special tribute to our Veterans of Foreign Wars. What a privilege it was standing around “the basin” with dozens of blazing fires burning over the water, listening to a marching band and several traditional “American” songs as we watched the ring of men and women – each lighting the torch of the Veteran standing next to them – until the whole circle was ablaze with hundreds of torches proudly held high. Indeed, it brought tears to my eyes as I thought about the sacrifices made by these heroes and it really left me feeling “Proud to Be an American”.

Veterans’ Day, I’m sure, means very different things to each one of us and so Nanci and I light the chalice this morning in honor of Veterans’ Day or Remembrance Day, and in honor of what each person here holds for it in their hearts individually.
  How fortunate I am to live in such a community, and to have had this opportunity to do this with my dear sister.