Sunday, November 14, 2010

Cambridge Chronicles, volume 2: Day of Remembrance

This week I was struck by how many people here in the UK were wearing these little red flowers on their lapels.  I had no idea what they were for, until I finally asked a sweet lady in a pub.  She said that they were poppies, worn in honor of Armistice Day, or Remembrance Day, to remember the nearly 20 million fallen soldiers in World War I, and those who have given their lives since then in military service.
The tradition of wearing poppies stems from a poem written by John McCrae in 1915, "In Flanders Fields."  It is said that poppies grew in great numbers near the battlefields and final resting places of the soldiers who fought in the town of Flanders, and the poem was written after the author witnessed the death of his friend on the battlefield.

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.

I was struck this week by how many people observed this holiday with deep reverence.  We call the same holiday Veterans' Day in the US, but we do not honor it in nearly the same way as they do here.  Even today during church, we observed two minutes of silence in honor of fallen military personnel.  There was a sense of patriotism and respect for service men and women who were willing to give their lives in the cause of freedom.  It was very inspiring, and an eye-opener for me about how we regard our own military personnel in the US.  People picket and set up demonstrations at fallen soldiers' FUNERALS in the US.  I hope that we can learn some lessons from our allies here in Europe about how to respect and honor those who are contributing to our security and freedom.

On a lighter note, we got lost today.  AGAIN.  Big surprise, huh?  A family was having some people over for lunch and invited us to join them.  We were pretty excited.  They told us to follow their car.  We were the 3rd car in the caravan.  We drove about 5 miles, and I assumed that the second car was going to the same place, until we got to a roundabout (curse them!) and the first car went one way and the second car went another!  We didn't know what to do, so we went around the roundabout and tried to find the first car (because we were going to their house).  We couldn't find them.  We drove for another 10 minutes, and finally we pulled over into a parking lot with some young military-looking cadets.  One of them let us use his phone to call the only number we had (the bishop).  No answer.  So after a 40 minute drive out into the middle of nowhere, we turned around and tried to find our way home.  Fortunately, we only got slightly turned around, and got back to our apartment in time for peanut butter and jam sandwiches and a nap. :)


Jessica said...

Wow, that is so beautiful, solemn yes, but beautifully written. That is definitely something to think about. I am quite impressed at their reverence. I must admit I didn't even know it was Veteran's day last week until someone came into the store and were complaining about how the post office was closed because of it. What a difference. I hope we can learn from them too..

Eliza Jane Farley Gomez said...

It's so sad that we've lost the reverent nature of Veterans' Day, I wish we were more like our European brothers and sisters--history is much more seriously noted and widely known--whereas over here, people don't even seem to know what Independence Day or any other holiday that isn't commercial is.....

I'm so psyched to read about your exciting and funny adventures--reminds me of when I was in Spain and got lost having to ride the bus into town--I was the only kid whose family lived outside the city limits--but ended up being soooooo fun and exciting for me :)