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Six friends on four motorcycles exploring two islands in two days.  Okay that’s way too long for a song title but perfectly describes today’s adventure.  Meeting up at the gas station this morning at 8:00 all six of us were looking forward to our mini vacay.  Moments down the highway I realized that perhaps I was a bit too hasty leaving the leather chaps behind.  It may be the middle of July but North Island mornings are still cool.  Nope, correction.  Make that cold.  Thankfully I was wearing my plug-in jacket which kept my core warm.

Heading south on Highway 19 we fell into an easy rhythm.  Rob & Jackie were lead bike, followed by Debbie, then her husband Ken and we brought up the rear.  In absolutely no hurry we stopped at the Cable House Cafe in Sayward for coffee and toast.  Ask for the Brazil nut butter !!  Next stop was Campbell River for groceries and fuel.  And finally after years of driving right past, today we took the time to stop for a meal at the Highwayman in Union Bay.  A bike friendly pub with cool motorcycle decor inside and out.  A mug of Sleeman’s beer went perfectly with fresh fish & endless fries.

Next up the Buckley Bay ferry terminal on our way to Denman Island.  No point wandering away from the bikes — it’s only a ten minute ferry ride.  Thanks very much to the BC Ferries employee who suggested we add all the fares together on an Experience Card.  We saved a whopping 40%.   Off the ferry we followed the winding road to Blue Owl Cottage where the other two couples are staying.  And then on to our accommodations at “The Cottage” just around the corner.  For the next two nights we’re laying our happy heads in a very comfortable two bedroom cottage that’s completely outfitted with everything we need.

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Meeting back up with the group we hit the road again to explore the island.  It didn’t take very long.  Denman is just over 19 square miles with a very rural feel.  There are many acreages and farms.  Some with incredible ocean views.   Population approximately 1,000 Denman has a small village centre with General Store, Hardware, Book & Gift Shop and Community Centre.

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Taking our steaks & deli salads over to Blue Owl for a group barbecue we shared a few stories and lots of laughs.  We heard some embarrassing moments, talked about politics south of the border, our kids and grandkids and how much we all love living in a small town.

Tomorrow we’ll get on another ferry to head over to Hornby Island.  They call themselves the Jewel of the Salish Sea and their slogan is “so good, we hid it behind two islands.”  Hearing about their beautiful sandy beaches we’ve got our bathing suits and towels packed up and ready to go.

Now it’s time to call it a day.  All that fresh air has us yawning.

Hugs from the road…

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Longer days.  Photo worthy sunrises and sunsets.  Much warmer temperatures.  It’s finally time to dig out flip flops, shorts and slather on some sunscreen.  And the people said AMEN .  Just to be clear 20 degrees Celsius is considered a suitable summer temperature on the north island.  It’s never too hot or too cold.  We don’t get scorching hot summers and we’re happy with the mild winters — some years we don’t even have to get the snow shovel out of the shed. Add it to the many things we love about living on the west coast.

Deciding to be tourists in our own backyard last week we hopped the ferry and headed over to Sointula on Malcolm Island.  Approximately 800 souls call the island home.  I like to think of them as “the Finns and the hippies.”  More saunas per capita than anywhere else in Canada. Artists, writers, musicians and free spirits.  Our first stop off the ferry was the Sointula Resource Centre to pick up the Sointula Guide for 2017.  And groceries don’t get any fresher than goodies for sale in the garden stand out front.  Monday’s offerings were farm fresh eggs, garlic and assorted jams/jellies.  I love the honour system — you write down what you purchased on a a clipboard and leave your cash in the slot.  Our next stop was the Co-op Store where I found some organic instant oatmeal made in BC.  Because it’s a store owned & operated by the people there are always different items than we find at our grocery store.  We then wandered across the road to Upper Crust Bakery where I was thrilled to find a loaf of pulla — Finnish sweet cardamom bread.  My mouth is watering just thinking about toasted pulla with butter and homemade jam 😀 Chatting with the owner Victor we found out with a bit of notice he’ll bring baked goods to Port McNeill on Mondays.  After sharing a delicious cinnamon roll, sausage roll and ham & cheese croissant with my fellow travellers we’ll be calling him very soon.

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Sointula is a Finnish word meaning “place of harmony”

After cruising the main drag we made our way to Burger Barn at the Boat Harbour. Sitting at an oceanfront picnic table we dove into scrumptious homemade cheeseburgers & fries.  An added bonus was being serenaded by two guitar playing locals.

We had all afternoon to explore before catching the 4:25 ferry.  Made our way to the other side of the island to Bere (pronounced “bear”) Point.  Even traveling with a one-year-old we managed to walk with the stroller for a bit of the Beautiful Bay Trail and finally ditched it with mama carrying baby the rest of the way to the platform at Malcolm Point.  Stunning views of Queen Charlotte Strait and the Coastal Mountains.  Walking the entire trail takes 5 hours round trip and depending on damage from winter storms it’s not always open the whole way.  There’s a caretaker’s shack in the campground parking lot with information if you’re not sure.

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Bere Point Park & Beautiful Bay Trail

Before we had to line up at the ferry terminal we had time to relax on the beach past the Finnish cemetery on the Kaleva Road.  With nobody in sight in either direction we happily plunked ourselves on driftwood with faces turned up to the sun.  Bowen is happy no matter what his surroundings — picking up and throwing rocks pleased him to no end.

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On Monday eager to take advantage of another sunny day, our merry band of adventurers packed up for a trip to Telegraph Cove.  When you travel with a little person preparation takes time and effort.  Stroller, toys, baby bag with diapers & change of clothes.  Check.  Snacks, sippy cup, soother and sun hat.  Check.  Safe to proceed.

We brought our own picnic with homemade macaroni salad and picked up some fresh buns & deli meat on the way. Topped off with specialty coffees from Sea Horse Cafe we sat and watched the comings and goings in the harbour. Fishing boats, kayakers and visitors from around the world make their way to Telegraph Cove.

The yard of foxglove in front of one of the homes in the Cove stopped us all in our tracks. Glorious !!  I’ve learned since then that they are a biennial plant meaning they bloom the second year and then die. But each flower contains seeds so they spread like crazy.  And the last picture is my favourite.  Bowen fell asleep from the time we left the Cove and drove to the campsite so we could hike the short trail to Bauza Cove.

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Telegraph Cove — launch point for whale watching, kayaking, fishing

Still on the list of North Island day trips this summer is Port Alice.  I’m embarrassed to say I’ve never visited Devi’s Bath or the Eternal Fountain.   And it’s been a few years since I’ve been to Alert Bay — walked through the Ecological Reserve or visited U’Mista Cultural Centre.

I’m throwing out a challenge — to explore your own corner of the world.  To family and friends we wish you a HAPPY CANADA DAY 🇨🇦

Hugs from the beach…

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Many, many years ago we camped.  The kind of camping where you sleep on the ground.  With sleeping bags. In a tent.  No flush toilet or kitchen or electricity.  Loads of fun when you’re young.  I wouldn’t trade those happy memories for anything.  Like trying to pitch a tent in the dark.  Or me leaving the zipper open for raccoons to steal food.  My bff Yvonne just reminded me about that crazy trip when we were teenagers.  Now, with achy bones and having to get up multiple times in the night that kind of camping just doesn’t work anymore.  Our daughter & her husband spend most summer weekends camping.  Not wanting to be left out of a trip to Cluxewe Resort, Chris and I rented a trailer for a week.  A local bed & breakfast owner delivered her fully equipped trailer to the campsite for us.  Levelled it, pulled out the awning and had the hot water turned on and ready to go.  All the bedding, dishes and gear required for our home away from home.  Added perks like stereo, tv, microwave, heat & shower.  Wow camping sure has changed since our blow up mattresses and kerosene lanterns.

After putting away our clothing and food we immediately set up lawn chairs for our favourite part of the glamping program.  Sitting.  Cold beverage in hand and wearing my touristy straw hat during the day with arms & legs lathered in sunscreen and at night hoodie drawn tight and wrapped in a blanket with a cup of tea. Imagine me sitting still for minutes at a time…relaxing.

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This happy one-year-old couldn’t get enough of the outdoors.  Rain or shine.  By stroller or wagon Bowen happily traveled from one end of the property to the other every day.  Including umpteen visits to the park. There was so much to touch and pick up and put in his mouth: weeds, grass, rocks and dirt.  With friends and family visiting every day there was always someone to follow our curious boy on his expeditions.  Being so close to forest and reports of cougars in town made us a little more cautious than usual.

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We saw lots of familiar faces during the week.  Locals out for a walk, camping or visiting the cafe for a meal.  It may only be 10 minutes from home but Cluxewe is very popular with North Islanders.  We share the same coast but the scenery is different.  The Cluxewe River, estuary and ocean sit side by side with oodles of shore & water birds and lush green vegetation.  The beach being more exposed washes up all kinds of driftwood and huge clam shells as far as the eye can see.

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The nights did get a bit chilly but that’s what campfires are for — and look at my perfect s’more.  Thanks to Nate for the perfectly roasted marshmallow sandwiched in between two chocolate covered digestive cookies.  Sweet, sticky goodness.

Some of the stories around the fire had me laughing until I cried.  Don’t worry gang — what is said at Cluxewe, stays at Cluxewe.  The very best part of camping though is the food.  Megan and I carefully drafted up a menu ahead of time, shopped for all the ingredients and then feasted at every meal.  Burgers & potato salad, mac & cheese with Caesar salad and garlic bread, perogies & sausage.  This photo was taken on Saturday which was an appy dinner.  Visiting family and friends all contributed a dish and thanks to our camping neighbour Erin the stand out for me was deep fried halibut bites.

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Our next few trips away will be by motorcycle.  Next month we’re island hopping to Denman & Hornby.  And in August we’re looking forward to meeting up with my brother Dan and cousin Brian who are hopping on their Harley’s in Ontario for some iron butt riding to BC and back.

Hugs the beach…

http://www.cluxeweresort.com/

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Ideas for this post have been swirling around in my head since we got home from our most recent motorcycle trip to Victoria.  Originally I planned on writing every day.  Ever so much easier to remember adventures one day at a time.  But last Friday morning cruising my Social Media sites over a quick cup of coffee this article got my attention.

https://onbeing.org/blog/the-disease-of-being-busy/

Hmmm “The Disease of Being Busy.”  At first glance I can tell it’s written by a mother of young kids and I was going to carry on to the next article.  Until I reach this sentence:

“How did we create a world in which we have more and more and more to do with less time for leisure, less time for reflection, less time for community, less time to just… be?”

I instantly vowed on Facebook (because really how else can I hold myself accountable) to enjoy fresh air, have real conversations and live in the moment.  An hour later we were wheels up and heading down the highway.

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Traveling from one end of Vancouver Island to the other took us all day.  Stopping for coffee at the Sayward gas station we ran into father & daughter team Al & Rebecca (also from Port McNeill) who decided it was a perfect day to ride to Campbell River for donuts.  Stopping for a seaside lunch in Qualicum Beach we met up with a couple of bikers enjoying the amazing weather.  One of them was Rick from Weaver’s motorcycle apparel store in Courtenay.  Funny thing about that is we had just stopped at Weaver’s and asked about him.  Next stop was Ladysmith to reconnect with Marty & Sharon who we hadn’t seen in 8 years.  Marty & Chris were both members of the RCMP and stationed together in Port Hardy.  Now they are two retired guys with tattoos and much longer hair.  Awesome to see them and hear about their winter home in Costa Rica.  The last picture was taken from the front porch of dear friends Robyn and Brian who live across from Ogden Point in Victoria.  So much activity including this para-glider coming in for a landing.  Over dinner and drinks we got all caught up with each other’s families before launching into serious talk about retirement.  What makes up happy?  What activities feel worthwhile?  Definitely a topic for future posts.

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Our final destination was Oak Bay Resort.  A perfect trifecta of beautiful property, beautiful room and incredible weather.  We’ve never stayed there before and quickly decided we would love to go back.  Not a huge hotel but with all the amenities.  Pub, restaurant, cafe, spa and awesome outdoor mineral pool & hot-tub overlooking the ocean.  Excellent customer service.  And unlike the downtown hotels where we normally stay no extra charge for parking or wifi or bottles of water in the fridge 😀

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So much happening in Oak Bay

Saturday afternoon while out for a bike ride we stopped at Mayfair Mall to browse through ToyRUs.  Just as I was wondering why the lady walking past us looked so familiar Chris said, “hey that’s Karen from Big Brother.”  Okay now I have to admit that we’re big fans of the reality show Big Brother Canada. Karen came in second place just a few weeks ago.  Hey that was cool.  The next morning as we’re sitting on the patio of the hotel with morning coffee, watching the Oak Bay Half Marathon pass by, who walks past us…again…Karen.  Two days in a row in two different places. Bizarre.  This time I had my camera out with full intentions of asking her if I could take a selfie.  Chris gently dissuaded me.  Definitely preventing me from gushing and sounding like a groupie. Instead I nonchalantly kept glancing in her direction until she left.

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Happy 40th Anniversary Craig & Deborah

The main reason for our trip to Victoria was to celebrate our friends Craig & Deborah 40th anniversary.  Kudos to the party organizers because it was a heckuva bash !!  Formal dinner for 100+ guests in the David Foster Theatre at our hotel.  We were entertained by Paper Street Improv theatre group, an amazing a Capella group, the Murray’s son Clifton (one of the Tenors) and their daughter Georgia sang a beautiful rendition of Roy Orbison’s “Crying.”  And then oldest sibling Fraser had us all in stitches when he came out on stage wearing his Mom’s wedding dress and his father’s wedding suit jacket.  Fraser — you really need to take that talent on the road.  When you retire from running Nimmo Bay Resort you’ve got a future in stand-up comedy.  Craig got up on stage to thank everyone for coming and before singing “A Daisy A Day Dear” to Deborah he told the crowd, “the most important thing you can do for your kids is to love their mother.”  And he has for 40 years.  Isn’t that beautiful.  Apparently the party continued on into the wee hours…without us….of course you’re saying to yourself !!  This retired couple got an awesome night’s sleep.  Sunday afternoon we spent most of the day poolside taking a time out for champagne and cake and opening of anniversary presents.  To top it all off 22 of us cabbed over to Siam Thai Restaurant for three hours of food.  Plate after plate of fresh, hot and delicious Thai food.

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Finding our way back home

The gorgeous weather followed us back the island on Sunday.  We stopped in to Lake Cowichan to see friend’s Jim & Laurie’s new summer home.  Lake & mountain views, a clubhouse with in-ground pool, steps to the beach and they’ve got a guest room.  Heck yes we’ll be back again when we can stay longer.  Another retired couple who have found their Shangri-La.

Home sweet home.  No matter how many miles we travel, adventures we experience, fun we have, we are always grateful to turn into the driveway.  Stay tuned.  The escapades continue !!

Blessings from the beach…

 

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There is so much going on in our small community of 2300 souls.  Yesterday the Rotary Club of Port McNeill debuted their 1st Annual Rugged & Wild Race to build support and awareness for the next phase of the Rotary Trail.  A dear friend and president of the Rotary Club Deborah Murray hoped 50 people would turn up.  I pooh poohed that number and guessed at least 100 would come.  We were both wrong.  There was at least 200 people in attendance with 160 registered to bike/walk/run the 5km and 10 km routes.  The registration table was overwhelmed running out of waivers twice, sending a volunteer to find a photocopier stat !!

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I named our 3-generation friends and family team “Bowen’s Babes.”  And that’s my Rotarian husband explaining the why’s, where’s and how’s of the event.  And we’re off down Mine Road to Beach camp where volunteers at the first check point offered water and a pit stop.  And then the parting of the ways.  Not wanting to slow down our team mates — the 50 somethings in our group said goodbye to the younger members just as the skies let loose.  So glad I brought a rain jacket.

From Beach Camp to Beach Drive the 2nd check stop in front of the Harbour Office offered apple juice & silly string.  Past the marina and across Broughton Boulevard to the Community Hall we followed the trail up through Broughton Campground, onto logging roads and out to Hwy 19.  Back onto the Rotary Trail and down Campbell Way towards the finish line.

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At the one hour and 55 minute mark Cheryl and I were the last ones to cross the finish line.  Thanks to the volunteers who waited for us.  We’re happy you saved a few hotdogs and candy for two wet, muddy and tired walkers !!  After hugs & high fives Cheryl and decided we’ll definitely do it again next year.  Everything I wore went into the washing machine and I’ve never been so glad to step into a hot shower.

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As soon as Chris finished his MC duties he hopped on the Harley and headed down to the Show ‘n Shine in front of the IGA.  The waxing and polishing paid off and Chris came in 3rd place out of 22 bikes.  Torrential rain and hail didn’t stop these intrepid riders.

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Hours later we headed to the Lion’s Hall for their annual Action Auction.  The Lions Club is celebrating their 50th anniversary and the Auction is their big fundraiser. This year there were 174 items in the live auction with everything from bbq tools to loads of gravel.  Chris and NISS Principal Jay Dixon were co-auctioneers this year coaxing the crowd into bidding just a little bit more for items donated by local businesses and individuals.  I walked away empty-handed this year but had a great time watching the action.  Oh and I really enjoyed the deep-fried pickles.  Thanks to the Lioness Club for all the great goodies coming out of the kitchen.

Nobody can ever say there’s nothing to do in Port McNeill.  It’s more a case of how do we fit all the events into our schedule.

Until the next adventure…

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For those who haven’t met me in person I smile.  A lot.  Ditto with laughing. Sometimes until I wheeze.  Best medicine EVER !!  My family have seen me laugh to extremes quite a few times.  Usually when I’m overtired and something hits my funny bone.  Highly embarrassing when it happens at an inappropriate time or place.   “Uh oh Mom’s gonna blow,” my daughter warns when she sees a laughing fit on the way.  And I’ve learned that trying to rein in the hilarity only makes it worse.  I once broke into a rash trying my best not to alarm shoppers in the greeting card aisle at the drugstore.  It wasn’t pretty.

This week I had so many reasons to smile.  One morning after a late leisurely breakfast at Tia’s Cafe with my daughter & grandson we walked the town centre to run errands.  Spring flowers at the Post Office are so cheerful even on the greyest & rainiest of days.   Daffodils are my absolute favourite.  Note to self:  plant some in our garden !!  These foot vase/planters at the drugstore stopped me in my tracks.  Whimsical, a tiny bit creepy and I’d like to ask the artist, why is the big toe curled up?  We browse through the gift section often.  This week there’s a batch of wooden signs using old records.  How retro !!  And a great way to use up that vinyl collecting dust in basements all over the world.

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Eleven months ago this little munchkin started charming us all.  On this particular day he was most interested in what Grandpa was doing outside on the ladder. We knew Grandpa was power washing winter grime from the vinyl siding but Bowen looked at it as a game of peekaboo.  “Where’s Grandpa?” “Where did he go?” “Oh there he is.”  I dare anyone to keep a straight face watching a baby process the world or when they bless you with a gap toothed grin.  Yesterday in Port Hardy Bowen carried on quite the conversation with an old fellow who was happy to speak the goo goo gaa gaa language babies understand.

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Waking up every morning my routine is simple.  Shuffle into the kitchen, turn the coffee pot on, and gaze out the window.  Time for my own weather forecast.  Today I’m guessing: scattered clouds, mostly sunshine, wind from the south and a high of 12 degrees.  We’ll need sunglasses or ball cap today to keep that glorious sunshine out of our eyes. That makes me smile.

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And on the agenda for today.  Baking large batches of banana chocolate chip muffins.  Homemade goodness that will go perfectly with afternoon tea.  With a view !!  One more reason to let my happiness shine through.

Hugs from the beach…

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Living on the “wet” coast, Remembrance Day in Port McNeill is more often than not drizzly, cold and grey. Seems appropriate somehow.  Most war movies include scenes of tanks and trucks bogged down in mud, soldiers wet and cold in foxholes. It’s the least I can do to stand at the cenotaph for an hour in the rain to honour the brave souls who fought.

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The number of veterans in our Remembrance Day parade gets smaller every year. It makes me teary to see men and women marching wearing medals, badges and insignia they earned at such a high price.  The vets that march in our parade now are ones who served in more recent conflicts like Afghanistan.

Years ago I started asking family members how war touched their lives.  Because he was born with only one arm, my Grandpa Collings couldn’t join the regular forces in England during WWII.  Instead he was active in the Home Guard spending evenings driving through the countryside to enforce blackout conditions.  My father remembers there was a shed on their farm full of dynamite and ammunition in case it because necessary to fight.  Fields on the family farm were pocked with shell craters.  The village school was bombed and completely destroyed.  Everyone knew the importance of diving under the beds during air raids.  That’s my Dad lower left…a little boy living in a country under attack.

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My great-uncle John was in the Royal Tank Corps.  That’s the unit recovering tanks from the battlefields.  When I visited England in the early 80’s he gave me a pin that he reckoned came from an Egyptian soldier’s hat. And I’ve always wondered…was the soldier killed on the battlefield?  My happy ending self wants to believe he simply lost his hat.

Leaving family and friends behind in small village England, my great-aunt Dorothy boarded a ship headed to Detroit Michigan to start a new life with her American GI. One of the thousands of war brides.  Not knowing that some day both her sons and a son-in-law would be drafted into the Vietnam War.  Two saw combat.  One was shot while flying in a helicopter.  All three came home forever changed.

My mother & father-in-law met while serving in the Canadian Air Force just after WWII.  Doug was a pilot, flying fighter aircraft during the Cold War.  A different time, Buddy had to quit when they got married. Stationed all across Canada, France & Germany.  My husband remembers whispered talk of the Cold War, nuclear bombs and Russia.

Another generation now wears a uniform…our nephew Stewart right now as a Corporal in the Canadian military.  A journeyman power engineer on a base in Quebec.  We know what he agreed to when he signed up and my prayer is…well…you know what the prayer is.

I think of myself as anti-war but pro-military.  This proud Canadian wears a poppy, will stand at the Cenotaph on Friday and then go to the Royal Canadian Legion Branch 281 afterwards to shake hands with veterans and thank them from the bottom of my heart for their service.

They shall grow not old, as we that are left grow old:
Age shall not weary them, nor the years condemn.
At the going down of the sun and in the morning
We will remember them.

Robert Laurence Binyon

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