Thursday, April 28, 2011

An X-tra special post

That might not be quite true...isn't every post here special?
Regardless, I wanted to write a little bit more about our trip to Normandy and I figured letter X would be a good time to do that. If you missed part one you'll find it here.

X is for X-tra special

There is so much to see and do in the Normandy region of France.
Much of it centers on the WW2 sites and I'll get back to that in a minute but one side trip we took that we all enjoyed was to the little town of Bayeux.

There is something quite famous known as The Bayeux Tapestry. The whole time we were en route to Bayeux hubs and my brother in law kept saying things like-

We're doing what?
We're driving an hour to stand in a queue to go see a tapestry?
Isn't that like needlepoint?

But we ladies who had done our pre-trip homework knew that this was most definitely something to see. The tapestry illustrates the events leading up to the Norman conquest of England in 1066. Legend says the tapestry was made by Reine Mathilde, the wife of William the Conqueror but it's more likely the tapestry was designed and woven in England. The tapestry hangs in a museum in the town center but its original home was the huge Gothic Cathedral Notre-Dame de Bayeux.

This all might sound so very very dull but it is absolutely fascinating. Even the boys agreed. The tapestry is about 230 feet long and took approximately ten years to complete. After viewing the tapestry I felt like I finally understood the chronology and characters who were key to the conquest. Let me just add that William the Conqueror and the Battle of 1066, while very very old, are still talked about pretty darn often as you travel around the UK and France. Its good to understand what all the fuss was about. Plus the town of Bayeux is so old France.
It's in the Calvados region which is also pretty well known for something else...Calvados Brandy.
Tastes like apples.
Tipsy apples but apples nonetheless.

I want to talk about the American Cemetery in Normandy before I wrap this up.

(This photo is a postcard and no credit is listed)

Really, what words does one use to describe a sight such as this or the feelings that wash over you as you stand high on a bluff overlooking a beach called Omaha? There is no looking matter where you turn your eyes they will land on a row of white crosses which mark the final resting place of over 9,000 American servicemen and women. The American Cemetery at Normandy is 172 acres and free use as a permanent burial ground was granted by the government of France 'in perpetuity without charge or taxation.'
That means forever.

There is an area in the cemetery known as The Garden of the Missing where the names of over 1500 soldiers who gave their lives in the region but whose remains were never recovered or positively identified are engraved on stone tables.

The six of us walked in silence thru the cemetery and after a few minutes we met at the intersection of a row of graves.

A row like every other row.
Row upon row upon row.

We talked quietly and were commenting particularly on the age of some of these brave boys.
We looked down at the cross that happened to be in front of us.

We couldn't believe it.

The cross marked the grave of the young man from Utah whose letter we'd read that very first day in the museum at Caen. It was a distinctive name and town so there was no mistake.

Of all the graves in the cemetery we had come to stand before his.
One grave among thousands.
He didn't feel like a nameless faceless soldier.
We'd read his words, so poignantly written before he died.

We 'knew' him.
Or at least it felt like we did.

He was someone's precious son, a young bride's beloved husband.
A boy who went to war and had plans to come home and work the family raise a family of his own.
A boy whose life took a different turn.
Bravery and courage and patriotism are not just words.
They are words that require action.

Frankly I think every American should plant their feet on the soil in this cemetery for a day.
Acknowledge the sacrifice.
Let politics and rhetoric and protests fall away.
The land we live in that is so truly free might be a very different place were it not for the farm boy from Utah and all those many other sons and husbands and brothers who lay beside him in this place of unspeakable beauty and peace.

"Courage is not simply one of the virtues, but the form of every virtue at the testing point."
C.S. Lewis

This post was originally part of the 2011 A-Z April blog challenge.


  1. I love living a traveling life vicariously through you!

  2. Thank you for sharing the rest of your visit to Normandy. I'm sure seeing the American Cemetery left you speechless ... it certainly did me. The story about looking down and seeing the grave of the young man from Utah brought tears to my eyes. Thank God for those who have served and paid the ultimate sacrifice so that our country might remain free.

  3. WOW! I was wondering what you were going to do with the letter X and you did not dispoint! This post is truly amazing and the photo of the row apon row of graves makes me both proud to be an American and heart broken at all those lives lost. Thank you.

  4. It's mind-boggling when you walk between all those graves, isn't it? Thank you for such a great reminder to appreciate those who fought for our freedom.

    My blog's disappeared so I'm temporarily here

  5. Forgive me if this posts twice, blogger is acting crazy!

    In the words of LynnMarie, "Wow"!

    This was another great, thought-provoking, X-tra special post.

  6. Great writing today Joyce. Thanks for the heartfelt reminder to appreciate our veterans

  7. Your pictures left me speechless and you've (once again) moved me to tears.

  8. Truly stunning. I had never heard of the tapestry, but being American that isn't surprising.

    The Cemetary at Normandy is well known and photographed, yet the way you presented it made me feel stronger than ever and makes me want to see this first hand.

    Here is my link, which is very mild by comparison.

  9. Great X post! Yes, standing in that cemetery would definitely give someone a better appreciation and acknowledgment of what was lost on that fateful day. The world changed for the better because of what happened. Without that event, who knows just how messed up the world might be.

    It's a pleasure to meet you via the A-Z Challenge!

  10. What a moving story. I got goose bumps. It was worth another post, for sure.

  11. Your posts have been so wonderful, your travels have been awesome. You know so much about each place you have seen. I know that I could never retain that much information. I was thinking of taking notes just to remember the name of a building I take a picture of!

  12. Love reading your post-and a little jealous of all your travels. I would love to see the world, but hub hates to travel-never has-so one day.....maybe. This was an awesome post.