On the eleventh hour of the eleventh day of the eleventh month each year, light from the sun slants through an opening in the ceiling of the Shrine of Remembrance, bouncing off two mirrors on its downward journey before striking a single word engraved on the floor: love. The word is part of a phrase, “Greater Love Hath No Man,” which itself is an excerpt from the Bible: “Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” Outside the war memorial, a flame burns eternally.
A Chinese legend tells the story of a mortal cowherd and a weaver girl of the heavens who met on Earth, fell in love, and were secretly married. One day, their relationship was discovered, and the weaver girl was summoned to her celestial home. Though the cowherd chased after, the Mother Goddess, spiteful of their forbidden romance, gashed the sky between them, forming a deep cleft that would fill with stars and become the Milky Way. Through the seasons, the cowherd and the weaver girl stand heartbroken on opposite banks. On the seventh day of the seventh month of the lunar year, the magpies of the world fly up to the heavens and form a bridge across the river of stars so that, for one night, the lovers can reunite.
I hold up these stories in defiance of the ephemerality of life so that, during my moments of greatest despair, I can believe there are things that will outlast time.
To never stop missing. To never stop pining. To await the one day in a year when, like a ray of sun, like a halcyon bridge, our worlds reconnect, and we realize again the love we never lost.
Located in the southwest corner of the Domain Parklands, the Shrine of Remembrance is a war memorial completed in 1934 in honor of those who served and died in World War I. Outfitted with Doric columns and tympana, it draws heavily from Classical architecture. While natural sunlight illuminates the inscription on the floor only on November 11, throughout the year, an artificial light replicates the effect every half hour. The flame in the forecourt burns at all hours, but view it at night; the darkness heightens the sense of solemnity.
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