Thursday, November 5, 2015

The Meaning of Red Poppies

I looked down the city street to see red poppies bobbing up and down, bouncing into buildings and boarding trains. There were so many that for a moment, I did not see the people they were pinned to. It was as if each person had faded into the scenery and red poppies were blowing, swaying and swirling through the streets of Vancouver.

Canadians commemorate their fallen soldiers with red poppies. Remembrance day ceremonies are held on the 11th of November. Yet to prove commitment to remembering, on the last Friday in October the poppies start appearing. Inspired by the poem, In Flanders Field, the Canadian Legion launched the poppy campaign. By the time the Remembrance ceremonies are over, 18 million poppies will adorn the hats, jackets and lapels of Canadian men, women and children.
While in Vancouver this week, I was first intrigued and then humbled by the poppies. As I learned the meaning of the poppies, and watched the manifestation of gratitude and pride of the people, I was touched.

First, by the power of this small red symbol. With amazing precision, the sight of a red poppy would instantly remind me of its meaning. It is as if every poppy were accompanied by a soldiers’ whisper, “I know you are busy, but don’t forget. Don’t forget me.”  Next, I was inspired by the graceful unity of the Canadian people. I was impressed by the diversity of ethnicities, ages and economic classes whose solidarity to the cause seemed to whisper back, “You liberated me and I will not forget.”

Finally, I was reminded that sacrifice is still happening today. The poppy pinned to the jacket of a young man missing a leg reminded me that some sacrifices are endured in long and arduous ways. The fight for freedom, has not ceased since Flanders field. I don’t know that it ever will.
I will be forever grateful to my Grandfather Tripp, who gave his life as a soldier, and for anyone who bears the burden of freedom. I was inspired this week and reminded, that gratitude is more meaningful when delivered quietly and simply. As a result, I have adopted this beautiful custom from my Canadian friends.

I will wear my poppy proudly into the November night and I will not forget.

 In Flanders Field
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on
mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset
and were loved, and now we lie
In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the
you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.

John McCrae