Somewhere in England, November 4th 1943... Thus began a postcard that took 64 years to deliver.
Though the ink is still legible, the paper has yellowed. On the front is a picture of the Old Curiosity shop that Charles Dickens used to visit in London. It was a simple detail that Loyes Denny wanted to share with his baby sister, Mary.
Except the postcard -- and the message -- never made it to her.
Like so many wartime stories, it's become hard to separate the facts from the myth. The passage of time tends to blur events and distort their significance.
Postcards say so much, saying so little. Every word counts.
Just a few lines to let you know that I am well, hope you are the same.
They were 13, children of farmers of Irish descent who lived in Mille Roches, one of the 'lost' villages that would later be flooded by the Saint Lawrence Seaway.
Mary was the youngest, his favourite. Like many of her brothers, Loyes had gone overseas to fight.
It was an honour. The family was proud. Mary longed to serve her country, too.
When she was 15, she enlisted alongside her older sister, Aletha. She lied on the paperwork, claiming she was 18.
She didn't tell her parents.
Though Aletha was rejected for medical reasons, Mary was accepted.
She travelled to Kingston without her sister. Alone. Scared. It wasn't the adventure she was expecting, after all.
She tried to come home. Twice she went AWOL, and was returned and disciplined by military police.
Mary wrote to her mother, begging to send her birth certificate in the mail, proving she was underage. She served six months before being honourably discharged. She was given a medal for her service.
She came home to the farm, where her sisters took turns trying on her uniform and posing for pictures. Shortly after, Mary got married.
Around this time her brother Loyes wrote a postcard.
He was stationed in London and deployed as a munitions driver. One day the truck he was driving was bombed.
Well Mary, I guess I will have to close, as space is small.
He never came home. He never saw his sister again. He was 32.
But that's not the end of the story.
Mary never got the postcard, so she never replied.
Maybe her mother held on to it out of spite. Or out of sentimentality for her lost son. Maybe it was left in a drawer, forgotten...
Years passed. The war was won. Hitler defeated.
Mary's mom died. Her sister took over the estate. When she died, her belongings were passed to her only son, Gary.
The ink on the Old Curiosity shop faded.
Mary herself grew older. On her 80th birthday, after she blew out the candles -- having outlived every one of her siblings -- Gary handed her the postcard.
From your loving brother Loyes
64 years after it was written. 64 years after he died. He never heard back from her, and there was still so much she wanted to say.
She would have been 15. She was my grandmother.
Today that postcard is mounted on the wall in my mother's house. One day it will hang in my home, where I will look upon it and remember the sacrifices my family made for our country.
I will remember that life is short, and every minute we have with the people we love is precious and should never be taken for granted.