Lest We Forget
Most of us can remember being taught the importance of the Remembrance Day Poppy by a teacher, friend, or family member. We were taught how to wear it and to do so with pride and in memory of those who have served our country. It was always a bit tricky to affix the poppy without poking yourself, but mom or dad was usually there to help out. Although popular today, the poppy as we know it had humble beginnings. Like so many things in this life, the little red flower’s prominence came about by advocacy, chance, and perhaps providence.
The poppy was taken note of by Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae who was stationed as a medic at the front lines near Ypres, Belgium. Surrounded by those fighting, the injured, and the dead in what was known as the Second Battle of Ypres, McCrae would pen his famous poem In Flanders Fields. It was here he would exalt the small red flower, relay the terror of war, and extol the heroism of his fellow soldiers. The inspiration for the poem would come from seeing the resilient flower spread throughout the war-torn fields the day he buried his dear friend.
The area in which his friend was buried was commonly referred to as Flanders fields. The poppies had thrived there once before in the 19th century after the Napoleonic Wars where it was recorded how these flowers were springing up everywhere. The heavy shelling that occurred during WWI was credited with this sudden burst of floral color. The chalk soil became rich in lime from all the rubble allowing the poppy to flourish. When the war ended, the excess lime in the soil would be absorbed again and the poppy slowly disappeared. McCrae’s poem would go on to be published in Punch Magazine and serve as inspiration for individuals to pay respects to the fallen soldiers by wearing a poppy.
During a visit to the United States, Madame Guerin was further inspired to begin making and selling poppies to raise money for children who were suffering in the war-torn areas of France. The following year on July 5, 1921, the Great Veteran’s Association in Canada officially adopted the poppy as its Flower of Remembrance.
In so many ways, the delicate poppy serves as a magnificent reminder to each person of the beauty and fragility of life. That from war and destruction, beauty can still spring forth.
This year when wearing the poppy, may it serve as a reminder of the sacrifice that was paid and still being paid, by the men and women of this great nation. May they rest in peace, and may we endeavor to do right by them. Let us never forget them.
In Flanders Fields