I was very honoured this year to represent Spiritualism at the local cenotaph. But anybody who knows this procedure knows it means a lot of standing in the cold while various other religions and charities and so on are called forward.

I was standing next to an older guy. He was 89 he told me. He proudly wore his medals on his chest, and he stood tall and straight and whispered to me, “Every year this gets harder, but I will not stop coming.” Pride was etched into his face, and I wondered to myself what other memories lay deep within him of times that were maybe not so peaceful?

On the other side of me were a row of chairs for the infirm and disabled, amongst them was a young boy who was no older than 10 or 11. He too stood next to, I presume, his grandmother. He too wore a full chest of medals. I was told by the elderly veteran that they were his Grandad’s medals and the boy had also been present at the service for the last couple of years. As I looked at the young boy he shifted uncomfortably from foot to foot, yawned loudly as different people were called forward, and more than once I heard his grandmother tell him to stand still.

The contrast was not lost on me, the gentleman (who I now know is called Stan) was representing his comrades who had died fighting for freedom, so he had known the horrors of war. He knew what it was like to be without freedom, and he stood tall and straight proudly and silently remembering the sacrifice.

The young boy had no such knowledge, he had been fortunate to be born into relative freedom and peace. He only knew the stories, I assume, of his Grandad. Thankfully he would not know the first-hand horrors of a war as Stan had known.

So, what did this teach me? It taught me that there is nothing more valuable to our Soul than experience, and even though we would wish certain things did not happen in our lives, those very things bring to us wisdom and growth. For it is only through suffering and pain that our Soul is watered sufficiently to grow. If we have never lived we can never truly understand the experience. And it is, I believe, experience that brings us that eternal progress that is open to every human Soul.

As the proceedings came to an end, the wreaths were laid down and the Last Post played. Stan gave me a hug and said, “See you next year.” I looked to the young boy as his grandmother pulled him away, and I wondered if I would see Stan again, and I also wondered what Soul growth the young boy would experience within the next year.

For one thing is true, life carries on for everyone. And with that so does Soul growth.

Minster Jackie Wright