This was first time here and as I walked through the Canadian cemetery that day, I realized I was the only Canadian alive among the seven hundred and eighty there around me. Row after row of them lay silently under the perfectly
manicured lawn and gardens. Incongruously a small dog followed me, eager to play, nipping at my
sandled toes, oblivious to the folly of men.
I read the inscriptions beneath the maple leaf on each stone. Messages of hope in the afterlife, records of
heroism, and one compelling request: "He sleeps beside his comrades. His Grave I may never see. May
some kind hand place a flower for me." I found a flower and with tears in my eyes, did as I was asked.
I did not notice the approach of a man about my age and two women. One of the women was in her late
seventies. They saw me looking intently at the grave.
"Bonjour, le connaissez vous?
"Non" I said, pointing to the inscription. He nodded. "Ah oui. We wonder..we bring ma mÞre to visit her
first loves tomb."
"She was Canadian, from Quebec before the war. After the war she moved here so she could be near
"Mon nom est David." I said
" Je m'appelle Nicholas, over there is my wife and my mother. You have come a long way to visit a
cemetery in which you know no one."
"Oui, Dieppe est trÞs important pour les Canadiens"
Between his "terrible English" and my questions in "mauvais Franþaise", he told his mother's story. She
had fallen in love with a Canadian soldier. He had written to her every day describing his life in England.
Then the letters stopped. His last letter was dated August 17, 1942. A few weeks later the telegram
arrived at his family home "We regret to inform you...".
After the war, she emigrated to France. One day in this cemetery she met a French soldier come to pay
his respects to the Canadians who had given their lives to free his country. He had escaped France at the
Dunkerque evacuation. They talked until the sun had set and he asked if he could drive her home. A
year later they were married.
"That was my father." Nicholas said "He died last year."
I was reminded of a passage in the Bible.
"As for man, his days are like grass, he flourishes like a flower of the field; the wind blows over it and it
is gone, and its place remembers it no more."
Nicholas asked, why had I come to France? I could have answered that I had been fascinated by WW II
since I was a teenager, but at that moment I realized there was more to it than curiosity. I told him that I
didn't know -yet. With that we parted, four people connected by a cemetery, grief and an intense hatred for war.