Thursday, November 11, 2010


Today at 11am on the 11th day of the 11th month we observed a two minute silence at school to remember and respect all of those who lost their lives in the Great Wars this world has seen. For as long as I can remember, the image of people wearing poppies to comemorate this occasion, has been familiar. I never questionned why it was a poppy that was the flower of choice, and it is only in the last few years that I have gained a greater appreciation for the symbolism of the poppy. 

During my first degree, I studied a unit on therapeutic work with children. One of the suggested readings for the course was a book called Poppies on the Rubbish Heap. 
It was not a light read. It was a book about children who had suffered horrendous abuse. While this book by no means made light of the abuse cases that were contained in the text, it did speak of the inexplicable joy that therapists saw in the children they worked with, in spite of their circumstances. Invariably, this joy was hidden and rarely seen, but to read account after account of child abuse that provoked many tears, the fact that these children who had experienced such dark times still reflected glimmers of a lightness of spirit, was all the more moving. These children were, in the truest sense, poppies on a rubbish heap. 

I find it quite miraculous to think of how bright, beautiful poppies would grow upon land that had seen such slaughter and sacrifice during the war. To me, this echoes the message of Salvation. Jesus Christ causes life to spring forth in us, through all of the muck and mire in our lives. And this is most definitely miraculous.

Today, I learned that all of the 34 million poppies that people wear across England in memory of the soliders who died, are made at a single factory in Richmond. The man who started the factory in 1922, Major George Howson, designed the poppies in such a way that ex-service men and women who had been disabled by the war, would be able to make the poppies with one hand. Amazingly, Major Howson did not think his idea would be a success. How brilliant, then, that 90 years later, the paper poppies worn around the country at this time are still very much a known symbol of remembrance.

The poem that first inspired an American woman named Moina Bell Michael to wear a poppy that would become the symbol to represent remembrance was this:

In Flanders Field by John McCrae

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.

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