The three-day Memorial Day weekend is all about relaxing, having fun, maybe a barbecue with family and friends and hopefully watching veterans leading a Memorial Day Parade.
I wonder how many of us know the significance of the poppy? My grandfather served in France during WWI. When he was gassed, he returned to the states and was sent to a hospital in Texas.
My grandfather used to tell me stories about his WWI days. Of course, looking back, I wish I had listened more carefully and asked more questions. I distinctly remember him saying that when he returned to the states, he literally wanted to kiss the ground.
My grandfather in the 1920s
My grandfather was born in January 1899. After the war, he settled in NJ and lived there well into his nineties. Through the years he wrote me many long letters, all typed out using an old typewriter. A few of the keys would “jump.” Every single one of his 3 to 4 page letters would include stories, local and world current events, a short or long poem and a riddle or joke. He lived by himself and watched Benny Hill every night–he loved the “off-color” skits. He also watched The Three Stooges. He thought both shows were riotous.
Not too long ago, I was going through a box of old letters and came across one he sent me just before Memorial Day in 1984.
“In Flanders Fields”
by John McCrae, May 1915
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.
John McCrae, a Canadian, was a military doctor. It is believed he wrote the draft for his famous poem on the evening of May 2, 1915 in the second week of fighting during the Second Battle of Ypres in Belgium.
This is where blood-red poppies growing upon the graves in the burial ground–one was the grave of his friend–inspired McCrae to write the poem.
The questions I would ask now!!!!
Don’t forget to thank a veteran this weekend! Without them, where would we be? And if you ever have the opportunity, visit Flanders during poppy season.