The symbolism of a wild flower

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Scotland has a thistle. England has a rose. Edelweiss is reminiscent of Switzerland. In Canada, each province has a wildflower as its symbol. Closer to home, there is the purple iris of Quebec, also called fleur de lys and the flower of Ontario is the white trillium.

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These wildflowers represent a province as a logo and an indication that they grow freely in that province. There is no real symbolism behind each. However, there is another wildflower that really has a special meaning.

It all started 106 years ago, long before our current memories. The air was filled with hot gunpowder and noxious mustard gas that scorched the lungs and caused excruciating death. The ground was wet and thick mud and mud on the boots. Soaking clothes chilled the body as the soldiers huddled in the deep, water-filled trenches. Overhead, bombs screamed to the ground nearby, followed by explosions that ruptured eardrums, caused concussions and killed so many people. There was death all around.
Men and women, young and old, had volunteered to go to war. They comforted each other by sharing stories from home. Where was that house so far? Would they come back one day? First of all, they thought of their loved ones – a wife and children, or the girl they hoped to marry. They did not think of a provincial flower. They thought about survival.

Survival was not guaranteed. The bombardments would stop. The ceasefire only lasted long enough to recover the dead and dying left lying in the ground. The cries for “medic”, “help” and “aide moi” were answered under sniper fire. It was hell. This was Flanders during the First World War.

The bodies were buried and their graves were marked with simple white crosses. Through it all, there was a Canadian doctor/surgeon who mourned the death of a close friend. He saw the irony of dead soldiers buried in a field of beautiful red poppies marked with a sea of ​​crosses. He was so moved that he sat down and wrote the most famous of all war poems – In Flanders Fields.

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“In the fields of Flanders, the poppies blow between the crosses, row upon row – which mark our place…” The dead were still underground, “and in the sky the larks, still bravely singing fly, barely heard in the midst of the guns below.” . Amidst the scene of carnage and chaos, with crosses marking the location of each dead soldier, life went on with birds and flowers. These powerful words drew such a contrast between life and death.
Dr. John McCrae went on to speak on behalf of the soldiers among the crosses: “We are the dead. A few days ago we lived, felt the dawn, saw the sunset shine. We have been loved and have been loved and now we find ourselves in the fields of Flanders.

In an appeal to humanity, they pleaded: “Let us take up our quarrel with the enemy: to you, from failing hands, we throw down the torch. Be yours to hold it high,” adding a warning: “If you lack faith with us dying, we will not sleep though poppies grow in the fields of Flanders.

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It was two women, Moina Michael, an American and Anna Guerin, from France, who promoted the wearing of the red poppy after the 1918 armistice. I am proud to say that 100 years ago my own grandmother was one of many to volunteer. tasked with selling poppies for the Canadian Association of Veterans of the Great War (the forerunner of the Royal Canadian Legion) in 1921 – the first year the poppy was recognized in Canada as a symbol of remembrance. She boarded the train between Elk Lake and Earlton several times a week and the funds raised were used to treat injured veterans at Christie Street Veteran’s Hospital in Toronto.

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There have been many wars and battles since 1921, and Canadians have come together to defend our freedoms and our democracy. Some have paid the ultimate price; others suffer from both physical and mental debility. The funds raised from the annual poppy sales have continued to help your Legion, its veterans and their families. Be generous when thanking a veteran.

As you pin the poppy to the left side of your garment, consider these words of Laurence Binyon: “They will not grow old, as we who remain grow old: age will not tire them, nor will the years condemn them.” At sunset and in the morning we will remember them.

This is my take on Over the Hill.

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