Remembrance Day once more draws near, a solemn day of tribute to fallen family, friends and ancestors who made the ultimate sacrifice so that the rest of us might live on in peace and freedom.
In doing so, we mark that remembrance by wearing a red poppy — not to glorify war, but to note the sacrifice made by men and women who believed their cause was just, and to express a hope for a day when war is but a memory, and peace a lasting reality in this world.
In lieu of our normal editorial, we offer some words of explanation by Canadian poet Don Crawford.
Why Wear a Poppy
“Please wear a poppy,” the lady said,
And held one forth, but I shook my head.
Then I stopped and watched as she offered them there,
And her face was old and lined with care;
But beneath the scars the years had made
There remained a smile that refused to fade.
A boy came whistling down the street,
Bouncing along on care-free feet.
His smile was full of joy and fun,
“Lady,” said he, “may I have one?”
When she’d pinned it on, he turned to say;
“Why do we wear a poppy today?”
The lady smiled in her wistful way
And answered; “This is Remembrance Day.
And the poppy there is a symbol for
The gallant men who died in war.
And because they did, you and I are free —
That’s why we wear a poppy, you see.
I had a boy about your size,
With golden hair and big blue eyes.
He loved to play and jump and shout,
Free as a bird, he would race about.
As the years went by, he learned and grew,
And became a man — as you will, too.
He was fine and strong, with a boyish smile,
But he’d seemed with us such a little while
When war broke out and he went away.
I still remember his face that day.
When he smiled at me and said, ‘Goodbye,
I’ll be back soon, Mum, please don’t cry.’
But the war went on and he had to stay,
And all I could do was wait and pray.
His letters told of the awful fight
(I can see it still in my dreams at night),
With the tanks and guns and cruel barbed wire,
And the mines and bullets, the bombs and fire.
Till at last, at last, the war was won —
And that’s why we wear a poppy, son.”
The small boy turned as if to go,
Then said, “Thanks, lady, I’m glad to know.
That sure did sound like an awful fight
But your son — did he come back all right?”
A tear rolled down each faded cheek;
She shook her head, but didn’t speak
I slunk away in a sort of shame,
And if you were me, you’d have done the same:
For our thanks, in giving, if oft delayed,
Though our freedom was bought — and thousands paid!
And so, when we see a poppy worn,
Let us reflect on the burden borne
By those who gave their very all
When asked to answer their country’s call
That we at home in peace might live.
Then wear a poppy! Remember — and Give!
Republished from the Brandon Sun print edition November 9, 2013