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 bow my head for a moment of silence. 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.”
This exercise could take the whole month of November, or longer. I want to get started.
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:) The word about this latest vaccine is encouraging. Not a magic wand and still lots to do, but nonetheless, more than a glimmer.
Note 3:) I think I have the loveliest of readers on my blog. I so appreciate you. Take heart. For those of us in Ontario we have been treated to beautiful summer weather, and it has added smiles to all our faces that are noticed, even through masks. It is in the crinkles around the eyes, have you noticed?
Note 4:) Please take care, stay safe, socialize on zoom if you are in a hotspot, and do your best to get outdoors for a walk everyday. Remember that all things change. Nothing stays the same forever. We can do this, even if we wish we didn’t have it. Warmest greetings and see you next week, Trudy
Beautiful post Trudy. I will never forget those thousands and thousands of poppies in London. One of those visions you can still see when you close your eyes. That was a highlight of the trip to England…that and the ‘knitting incident’… Ha ha!
Beautiful post Trudy.
I read the following recently for the first time.
“When you go home
Tell them of us and say
For your tomorrow
We gave our today”
-John Maxwell Edmonds
I thought this was so poignant and a reminder of what is lost and what is gained.