Between 5th August and 11th November, 2014 the British people, to commemorate the centenary of the First World War (1914) honored the sacrifice of 888,246 service men and women who gave their lives as part of the Commonwealth in what came to be known as The Great War.
The commemoration consisted of nearly one million fist-sized ceramic poppies, on long metal stems, planted down the walls of and across the vast moat surrounding The Tower of London. As in the title given to the installation, “Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red” (to recognize the blood spilled by both land and sea based forces) the massive number of poppies swept across the ancient stone walls of the fortress and spilled into the moat, forming a “sea of red”, in memory.
My wife and I were able to secure one of the poppies for our home and one for our daughter’s. The enclosed picture shows the poppy, now “harvested” from the Tower’s moat and “planted” in our home that we might be constantly reminded of the cost and blessing of freedom – secured through blood.
The blood red poppy became, and is to this day, the symbol of the First World War. Its connection to this great and horrific conflict grew out of a poem, written by Major John McCrae, of the Canadian Infantry at Ypres, in Belgium.
An exploding shell took the life of a close friend and, the chaplain away on other business, Major McCrae was asked to officiate at the burial. To guide his remarks he wrote the poem, “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.
Much that is noble and sacred in life is the product of one person, on behalf of many, in the name of their values, their beliefs and their dreams, setting aside their personal needs for the needs of those they love. It is difficult and painful to comprehend what would put a person in a position where they would put the needs of another in place of their own but, perhaps, it may be as simple as “that which will meet my needs over time” is to make sure you live, free and safe, to “meet your needs over time”.
“[These] are the Dead. Short days ago [They] lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow…