In November 2010 I was in London England with my friend Nancy. Of all the things that grabbed my attention, one that surprised me was the extraordinary number of visual tributes to the Unknown Soldier and all of those men and women who sacrificed their lives during the wars. It was overwhelming to see all the white crosses with red poppies, covering entire sections of public and church land. All commonwealth countries observe a date close to November 11th or on the 11th, as we do in Canada, since the end of the First World War. It is a moving tribute to honour and express our gratitude to those who lost their lives and sometimes their sanity to protect our freedom.
Traditionally, the poppy is worn from November 2nd to the 11th and that is what I recall from my childhood. It acts as a reminder to not take freedom for granted. And to understand that people died, usually young people, on our behalf, in those brutal wars. Over time I have also added civilian casualties to my remembrance.
With that in mind, I will bow my head for a moment of silence at 11:00 am, on the 11th day of the 11th month. As do the school children, who often hold beautiful ceremonies with their hand drawn art work, songs and short plays in order to remember. And in order not to forget.
This day prompts me to also take stock and remember my family and friends who have died not though war but through illness and old age. I have anchored this practice of remembering to the 11th of November. I think it is helpful to have little ceremonies and rituals to remember our loved ones. The days flow by so fast and one year becomes ten. Many people I love have died in this past decade and November 11th is my visual cue to privately remember everybody. And it is a cue to make sure I care for the living, while I can, and to let those living, beautiful and beloved people know they are cared for.
A Reflection and Doing Exercise
My friend Patricia recently introduced me to a particularly practical, memorable, and delightful exercise, which is a tribute to those who have been instrumental in our lives. It goes like this and it too involves remembering.
“Make a list of the 20 people who have influenced your life. They can be people you know as well as public figures, artists, writers, teachers, etc. Some may no longer be alive. You get to decide who is on your list. After doing this exercise I asked myself “What needs to be done?” And I saw that I wanted to write a few letters of appreciation, to those I could, telling of their influence.”
I am slowly writing these letters over this past few years.
Note 1:) I am thinking of John McCrae, a Canadian soldier, poet, and physician who wrote the now iconic poem, In Flanders Fields. The first stanza goes like this and is why the poppy was chosen for Remembrance Day.
Note 2:) I have the loveliest of readers on my blog. Yes, YOU! I so appreciate you. For those of us in Ontario we have been treated to a beautiful autumn that is still going on. Lots of people out and about, which is truly wonderful to see.
Note 3:) Please take care, take heart, and stay safe. For those of you who are suffering, remember that all things change. Nothing stays the same forever. We humans seem to be able to rise to what is needed. Sometimes we can’t and we ask for help. We all need help throughout our lives. Do your best to get your daily intake of the great outdoors. Everyday. Warmest greetings and best wishes. See you next week, Trudy