I met a girlfriend at Starbucks a few weeks ago and was greeted by a quiet and demure older man who was selling poppies. Seeing him selling those brilliant red handmade flowers took me back to my childhood days in Indiana.
My father and his siblings were a part of WWII – whether they were deployed or at home – they all played a part and were greatly impacted. Our ability to remember those who gave their lives for our country was invoked by first hand loss and experiences. Those emotions and memories were handed down to my sisters and I through a series of activities that would take place around Memorial Day Weekend. Selling and/or buying these inexpensive, yet priceless, poppies played a big part. You were not to be seen without your poppy on your lapel, sweater, handbag, and so on. The poppy represented ‘remembrance’, and my aunt, uncle and father played their part in making certain that our community remembered the sacrifice of those who had played a part in protecting our great nation. It wasn’t until I was an adult that I found out the meaning behind the red poppy that our veterans make and sell. We Shall Keep the Faith penned by Moina Michael talks about the poppy.
We Shall Keep the FaithOh! you who sleep in Flanders Fields,
Sleep sweet – to rise anew!
We caught the torch you threw
And holding high, we keep the Faith
With All who died. We cherish, too, the poppy red
That grows on fields where valor led;
It seems to signal to the skies
That blood of heroes never dies,
But lends a luster to the red
Of the flower that blooms above the dead
In Flanders Fields.And now the Torch and Poppy Red
We wear in honor of our dead.
Fear not that ye have died for naught;
We’ll teach the lesson that ye wrought
In Flanders Fields.
Ms. Michael conceived of the idea to wear red poppies on Memorial day in honor of those who died serving the nation during war. She was the first to wear one, and sold poppies to her friends and co-workers with the money going to benefit servicemen in need. This tradition continues today.
While I was journeying through the memories of my younger days, I couldn’t help but think about cutting flowers and decorating gravestones. My mother and father would cut the Iris’s and Peonies, and fill up as many buckets as the garden would provide for. We would load up the car and make our rounds… depositing flowers at the grave sites of our own loved ones. We would occasionally run into a relative doing the same thing.
After the poppy business and grave decorating was finished, there was always a picnic to behold. This trifecta of a celebration generally went on for the entire weekend – even though there would be some work sprinkled between the remembrance activities.
So if you see someone from an older generation selling poppies this weekend. Buy one and thank God for this great country and for all of the men and women who have lost their lives and put their lives at risk to protect your freedoms.