Remember the blood

A visit to Normandy inspires reflection on its bloody past and the freedom it represents

October 12, 2011 | Young Voices
Brandi Friesen | Special to Young Voices
Normandy, France

I sit in a small French house in a small village in the countryside of northern France, having stopped to stay with a local family on my prayer pilgrimage through Europe. Having just returned from the sea, and from the expansive beaches that run longer than the eye can see, I am full of gratitude and questions of darkness and hope.

The beaches of Normandy hold so much of our peaceful history, mostly because they have held so many tears, so much death and so much spilled blood. We are asked to remember the stories of this land and these beaches.

Nov. 11 is the day we in Canada call Remembrance Day, a day set aside to commemorate the end of World War I. Added to this act of memory is D-Day, famous across nations, which celebrates the day in 1944 when Canadian and American troops landed on the Nazi-controlled beaches of Normandy and went on to liberate the people of France.

However, our celebrations come with much blood spilled. The beaches of Normandy are the very places of bravery and light, of darkness and death. I felt the weight of this truth deeply as my feet sank into this historic ground. The once blood-soaked sand is now clean and white, washed and renewed daily by the waves of the ocean. Clean as they may now be, the French do not forget the events that made these beaches famous.

When speaking to Claire Broche, a local French woman, she claimed D-Day was a great day in French history. She spoke of the day with great honour for the Canadian and American troops, and of how it was a dark time in French history. “In France, they understand the darkness and the brightness,” said Broche. “Brightness because of bravery, but dark because of the death.”

A breath of prayer was released in thankfulness as we continued to speak and ponder what would have been if not for the events of that day. The reality of D-Day in France is much stronger than it is in Canada, for our freedom is so great that rarely do we realize it. When we are asked to remember the sacrifice—the blood that was spilled for our freedom—it means more than Canadian generations that are younger than our grandparents are able to comprehend.

The parallels cannot be missed when we are being asked to remember the blood that was spilled, the selflessness, the sacrifices for freedom. As Christians, it is a narrative that rings even truer. As we remember the blood of the those gone before us, do we also remember the cross and the blood that Christ spilled on our behalf? And as we remember the freedom we have because of victory in Normandy, do we remember that greater still is our freedom in Christ? Do our prayers of gratitude encompass both? Do our actions reflect the faith of our prayers?

Along the beaches of Normandy there is indeed a brightness and a darkness, and it holds true in every corner; in every corner there is a prayer of forgiveness and gratitude to be said.

This place I reside in reminds me to remember the past, and to live for the future with great hope. Whether to remember is to work for peace, or to wear a poppy and honour those who gave their lives so others could be free, I believe it does not come down to a divisive choice. Remembrance is more than both of these. In remembrance of the beaches of Normandy, and the sacrifice of Christ on Calvary, we live for so much more. We have blood given for our freedom, and in that freedom we remember so we might live.

Today I celebrate freedom, for it is more than I could ever ask for.

Brandi Friesen journeys from Saskatoon, Sask., Winnipeg, Man., and Kitchener, Ont., through Europe on a two-month prayer pilgrimage, blessed by the communities that send her out. For more info, see her blog at

Share this page: Twitter Instagram

Add new comment

Canadian Mennonite invites comments and encourages constructive discussion about our content. Actual full names (first and last) are required. Comments are moderated and may be edited. They will not appear online until approved and will be posted during business hours. Some comments may be reproduced in print.