Beauty surrounds us, but we usually need to be walking in a garden to know it - Rumi
November is traditionally the month of remembrance; a time to remember, not only our loved ones, but all who have passed to their eternal rest. At St Mary Magdalene a service of remembrance for relatives and friends passed was held last Sunday. This Sunday, people up and down the country gathered round their local war memorials to remember and honour those who have sacrificed themselves to secure and protect our freedom. The National Service of Remembrance held at The Cenotaph in Whitehall, ensures that no-one is forgotten as the nation unites to honour all who have suffered or died in war. However, despite the military parades, it is important to emphasise that it is not war that is being celebrated here, but the sacrifice made by those who died or suffered in war. As a symbol of remembrance and hope many people wear a red poppy at this time. It reflects the natural colour of field poppies. It is not a symbol of death or a sign of support for war, a reflection of politics or religion or red to reflect the colour of blood; simply remembrance and hope. Wearing a poppy is, of course a personal choice and reflects individual and personal memories.
But how did the poppy come to be such a powerful symbol? The Royal British Legion website http://www.britishlegion.org.uk/ gives the answer:
‘During the First World War (1914–1918) much of the fighting took place in Western Europe. Previously beautiful countryside was blasted, bombed and fought over, again and again. The landscape swiftly turned to fields of mud: bleak and barren scenes where little or nothing could grow. Bright red Flanders poppies (Papaver rhoeas) however, were delicate but resilient flowers and grew in their thousands, flourishing even in the middle of chaos and destruction. In early May 1915, shortly after losing a friend in Ypres, a Canadian doctor, Lt Col John McCrae was inspired by the sight of poppies to write the now famous poem 'In Flanders Fields'. This poem inspired an American academic, Moina Michael, to make and sell red silk poppies which were brought to England by a French woman, Anna Guérin. The (Royal) British Legion, formed in 1921, ordered 9 million of these poppies and sold them on 11 November that year. The poppies sold out almost immediately and that first ever 'Poppy Appeal' raised over £106,000, (equivalent to £4,888,610.70 in 2017), a considerable amount of money at the time. This was used to help WW1 veterans with employment and housing.’
So whilst a humble, yet tough, little flower has become a symbol of remembrance of those who have died in the service of their country; let us not forget that other simple, though ugly, piece of wood made in the form of a cross which symbolises the greatest sacrifice of all: ‘For God so loved the world that he gave his one and only Son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. John 3:16(NIV)
Peter is a father and a grandfather who has been retired from full time employment for a number of years