I don’t know whether I can write about Remembrance Sunday. As a subject it is so full of meaning and so full of feeling that I wonder if I can do it justice. Yet here I am and here are my words; I only hope that they can do enough.
You see poppies everywhere at this time of year. On the tunic of a glittering Zoe Ball as she tells us, bouncing and beaming, of the winners and losers in this week’s Strictly Come Dancing. Our neighbours wear them, school-teachers wear them and we see them in chaotic boxes on shop counters as we struggle with be-gloved hands to find the right change for a pint of milk.
Everyone one wears them because, my goodness, isn’t that the least that we can do? To take the time to drop a pound in to that shop counter box. The merest of benevolent gestures to remember those people that found themselves, and still find themselves, in the middle of a battlefield.
It’s a very easy thing to do; spend a pound and wear a poppy. What’s not so easy is to examine what lies behind the symbol. To try to imagine the immeasurable bravery of young men and women running to their deaths. Or perhaps they survive but live with the sounds of destruction ringing in their ears. The brutality, the devastation, the sacrifice. The fact that we continue to fight, and lose life upon life in war.
The most important thing to remember however has got to be that those lives cannot be lost in vain. John McCrae wrote in his famous poem In Flanders Fields, ‘To you from failing hands we throw the torch; be yours to hold it high.’ So, how can we hold that torch high? In other’s death should we celebrate life? The fact that because of others, we live?
I think we should. And that’s why I will wear a poppy. Because poppies are a celebration of life against all odds. A symbol of growth, colour, vibrancy, existence; the first to appear even on the churned, blooded ground of a battlefield. It is a flower, so often overlooked at other times of the year that provides us with confirmation of endurance; a symbol of what is yet to come and what we should live for.
There are many stories of people turning time and again to nature to prove the worth of life. That even after atrocities, disaster and the finality of death there can be renewal and new life. But is there any symbol more significant, more heartfelt or more abiding than the open-faced blood red heart of the Remembrance Sunday poppy?
Your post is so spot on, Aggie! This is one of the best pieces I've ever read on Remembrance Day.
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