Monday, November 11, 2013


It’s Veterans’s Day here today. In Canada we have Remembrance Day to commemorate the same events and sacrifice. I remember as a kid wearing my little velvet poppy pin in November, a lovely Canadian tradition of remembrance and thanksgiving. I liked the ones that had the dark centre rather than the bright green ones because I thought they looked more authentic; I remember being afraid that the little pin sticking out would jab me. Sometimes it did.

I liked those red poppies and how they looked against the blacks and greys of winter attire, especially on the streets of Ottawa. November was always so bleak, so cold and grey, and those little red poppies stood out brilliant in contrast.

We didn’t get a school day off back then like the kids do here in the US, and I liked going to school on Remembrance Day. My whole school-- all 130 or so of us!-- would walk to the centre of town where the flags blew in the chilly wind and where a few veterans sat in wheel chairs next to the mayor. At the eleventh hour we would observe a moment of silence, then a wreath was laid on the memorial. I would shiver through those moments, head bowed, careful not to appear indifferent in the presence for those veterans. I knew I wasn’t able to appreciate what freedom cost. I didn’t understand the tradition of standing in silence to remember something I didn’t experience. Remembering was not possible, but thankfulness was. I didn't know the cost, but I knew freedom. I’d pray silently a thankful prayer.

There was no moment of silence here today, but the day goes on as usual all around me. I’m sure that in some places folks around the country stopped to remember, and I’m sure wreaths were laid, but overall I haven't seen or heard much by way of remembrance. I  wonder how to show my kids, how to help them understand and appreciate.

Last year we memorized this famous poem, and today I read about the setting that prompted John McCrae to compose these words. We tried to put ourselves in that scene because it’s the only way we can ‘remember’ the sacrifice. This, I suppose, is a small way I can lead my kids to thankfulness for our freedom.

In Flanders Fields 
By: Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae, MD (1872-1918) 
Canadian Army

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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