Saturday, November 20, 2010

Remembrance Day

Just a few thoughts about Remembrance Day.  Interestingly, it came this year just a few days after Veteran's Day in the US - I don't know if it is always like that of if it ended up that way this year.  But there was a marked contrast between the attitudes of Britons that day and the attitudes of Americans on Veteran's Day.  First, the remembering doesn't happen only on Remembrance Day.  It begins on the first of November when people start wearing red poppies on their chest:


The physical reminder already makes it more meaningful and the symbolism of the poppy is sobering.  It comes from the poem In Flanders Fields by John McCrae, written about the fields of red poppies growing on the battlefields of WWI:

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.

 Poppy wreaths start appearing on the war monuments and memorials erected around every English town:



On Remembrance Sunday (the 14th), we stood for two minutes of silence in sacrament meeting.  The rest of the meeting was dedicated to talks about Remembrance Day and they were very emotional talks.  The war was closer to home here.  There was a tangible sense of sadness and of sorrow for the young lives lost during the world wars and subsequent wars.  People took time to mourn.  I was reminded of the long lists of names written on the walls of every church in Cambridge (and undoubtedly in every parish church across Europe) that memorialized the young men who died on the fields of battle.  I was reminded of my grandma's brother who died in Belgium during WWII.  I was reminded of (and grateful for) my two grandfathers who fought and lived.

On Tuesday in London, Uncle David, Aunt Gaylene and I stumbled upon more Remembrance Day poppies on the grounds of Westminster Abbey:








Most are placed there by loved ones with an inscription written in their memory.  Sections of the lawn are dedicated to individual battles and wars and include the most recent British deaths in Afghanistan.  Sections are also provided for soldiers who died in other armies.  What a monument to the horrible tragedy of war.  What a way to remember those who gave their lives.    

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