How shall we remember them, they that spilled their blood for us? They that freely gave of that which once coursed through their veins? They that gave so much of themselves that it was left mixed with the earth and makes her soil more precious and dear? They whose mortal journeys cease but whose memories cling to our hearts and tug at our dreams?
Questions like these permeate the minds of those who have lost friends and loved ones in wars at home or wars abroad. Such was likely the case for Canadian Lt. Col. John McRae who lost his good friend, Lt. Alexis Helmer, during the Second Battle of Ypres of World War I in 1915.
As a medical officer, it is told that he sat upon a field ambulance observing the aftermath of that horrific 33 day battle which inflicted over 87,000 casualties. He lamented the loss of his friend and the tremendous destruction which fell upon the land. Lt. Col. McRae noticed, as many soldiers like him that year, that despite the devastation and bleak surroundings, a flourishing bit of hope sprung upon land in abundance - the red poppy.
This bright red flower of this small, resilient plant was unmistakable in its contrast to the wastelands of the battlefields. The symbolism was impossible to miss - life emerging after death, life amidst the wastelands, memories of loved ones reaching back to us - all excellent interpretations that Lt. Col. McRae drew on as he composed a poem calledInFlanders Fieldsto honor his friend and those who died in service to their countries.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders Fields the poppies blow Between the crosses row on row. That 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 glow, Loved, and were loved, and now we lie In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe: To 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.
The poem gained national attention in many countries due to the efforts a few determined women, one American and one French, who were struck by the passion and plea to remember the fallen.Their very determined efforts to make the wearing of a red poppy a symbol of that remembrance led to the formal adoption of the flower by several veterans organizations and governments.
In the United States, Memorial Day is the annual day set aside to honor those who have died in uniform service and where the red poppy is typically seen. In Europe and many Commonwealth nations, the beautiful flower is displayed with equal zeal on the 11th of November, known as Remembrance Day or Armistice Day marking the end of World War I.
Add our poppy patch to your collection to serve as a durable and endearing reminder of the sacrifice of so many who gave so much.
“Greater love hath no man than this, that a man lay down his life for his friends.” - John 15:13