Friday, November 11, 2011

Their Names Liveth Forevermore

Canso War Memorial
Emma must have wondered at the cause of such grief.

The Great War tried the spirits of millions and costs countless soldiers their lives--a huge loss, almost impossible to comprehend at times.

Emily Myra "Emma" (McLellan) Swaine lived most of her life in Canso, Nova Scotia. As three of her four sons went off to war, she probably felt a mixture of fear and pride. Young men died in battle. She knew that. But she couldn't have known the toll the war years would take on her family.

The first strikes came from an unexpected quarter. Her father died in early 1915, a month short of his 88th birthday. A sad passing, but Angus McLellan had lived a long life and could go to a well-deserved rest.

The year passed quietly until the Holiday season. Just four days before Christmas, Emma lost her husband Samuel. He'd recently celebrated his 53rd birthday and readily believed he'd see many more until brought down by heart failure.

The ensuing years brought more suffering to bear on poor Emma. Her eldest sons Arthur and Roland died in France in 1916. Benjamin, her youngest boy, shared their fate in 1918. She also lost her stepfather, a nephew (Percy Lumsden), and her husband's cousin, but nothing could compare to losing three of her six children.


Arthur E. Swaine

Roland Judson Swaine

Benjamin Wallace Swaine

Percy John Lumsden

How relieved she must have felt knowing that she still had her only remaining son, Edward, and her daughters Margaret and Jessie to comfort her through it all.

In 1925, the Town of Canso called upon Emma to unveil their new War Memorial to the town's fallen heroes. The inscription must have brought fresh tears to her eyes.

"To the Glory of God, and in loving memory of those who made the supreme sacrifice in the World War, 1914-1918." A list of 23 names followed, but she would have seen only three. "Their names liveth forevermore."

Emma left Canso five years later, choosing to live on the other side of the province with her daughter Jessie. She died in 1946, far from home, but her family laid her to rest in the Canso Baptist Cemetery, next to her husband and sons--never parted in their hearts.

The names of Arthur, Roland and Benjamin Swaine, along with thousands more, are also recorded in The Books of Remembrance. The six books--First World War, Second World War, Newfoundland, The Korean War, South African War/Nile Expedition, and The Merchant Navy--are physically located in the Peace Tower on Parliament Hill (in Canada's capital city Ottawa).