|Pops at the Tyne Cot Memorial Cemetery in Passendale, Belgium|
They made it!
Finally, Chris' grandparents, his aunties, Elizabeth and Christy, and Christy's son, Jake, made it to Europe after two days of dodging tornados in Atlanta. They missed London, but thankfully they didn't miss out on their entire vacation. "The stranded five" arrived into Brussels several hours before we were scheduled to arrive in Belgium. It was impossible to switch our tickets, and I felt a little anxious about them arriving into Belgium without Chris or I there to welcome them. I called our friend, Bert, and without hesitation, he offered to do whatever I needed to help make "the stranded five" feel a little bit more comfortable. What a blessing it was to have Bert there! Our family made their way from Brussels to Roeselare, and in our little city, they found Bert with a box of Belgian chocolates in hand ready to welcome five weary, stinky, American travelers.
After such an ordeal, naturally, their luggage didn't arrive with them. It was promised that the luggage would arrive the following day, but in the meantime we had plans! We washed the clothes that "the stranded five" had been wearing for two days straight, ordered pizza and just enjoyed being with family for the evening. Everyone was relieved to finally be together as planned, and at the end of the evening, the weary travelers were more than happy to retire to comfortable accommodation at R&Breakfast.
In the morning, we were accompanied by five of our Belgian friends to the Tyne Cot Commonwealth War Graves Cemetery in Passendale, Belgium. The cemetery is built on the important western front of the First World War and is the largest Commonwealth cemetery in the world. It's quite humbling to walk through the museum and the graves themselves and try to grasp the complete devastation of the landscape and such overwelming loss of life.
There are almost 12,000 Commonwealth service men buried at Tyne Cot Cemetery, but 8,369 of the graves are unidentified. At the back of the cemetery, a giant, marble wall almost looks like two giant arms encircling the graves of the deceased. Another 35,000 names, of soldiers who were never found, are inscribed on that marble wall. They are the brave men "whose graves are known only unto God."
Their Name Liveth For Evermore.
We left the cemetery in a solemn mood and our Belgian hosts drove us to an old "diggers bar" to meet a real life digger. The diggers are the people who are called whenever war remains are found on someone's property. Almost 100 years after the beginning of WWI, Belgian farmers are still stumbling across the remains of fallen soldiers who were tragically killed and never accounted for. The diggers' job is to extract the remains and do their best to identify the fallen. They then are able to contact the family and bring a little bit of closure to the past. The digger we met had so much passion for what he did and he happily shared his passion with us.
It truly was a humbling day spent with Chris' family.
A few pictures!
All of the pictures are from the Tyne Cot Cemetery and the final three are at the "Diggers bar" that was called de Dreve which translates to - They Lived!