“God who gave us life gave us liberty. Can the liberties of a nation be secure when we have removed a conviction that these liberties are a gift from God? ~ Thomas Jefferson
“Blessed is the nation whose God is the Lord” Psalm 33:12
Last week, I was coming out of the grocery store as two older men sat there in uniforms next to a donation box. So I handed them a handful of change and they offered me a poppy. I smiled and regretfully told them that they could keep the poppy.
As I pulled away I had been proud of myself for donating. I had also been proud of myself for not taking the flower, as I had no use for it. I have been working on saying no instead of doing things just to do them. I have never been a fan of that flower, and to be honest, it would have been put right in the garbage. I figured I saved them some money. So all was good right?
As I entered my car, the morning show I listened to read a letter from a local listener, called “Finally Home”. The letter was about her son that was finally home from Iraq. She was telling that he was on a fifteen month tour, and about their experience at the airport when he returned. She spoke of all the families and their faces as they waited in anticipation for the soldiers to exit the plane. She described in detail how each one found their families and the slew of emotions that swept across the airport. Then she said when the doors closed and everyone was deciding what to do with their emotions, he exited the plane. Finally her son was home.
The story turns when she explains that her son was draped in an American flag, surrounded by men in dress blues. She explains how the men and women who just got off the plane and finally got to hold the ones who they’ve held so dear from afar, formed an aisle two deep and began to salute her son as his casket approached them. She explained the mix of emotions which was sheer agony knowing that they would never see him again, along with unbelievable pride of the vision she was embracing. She described her peace that she had knowing that her son’s body was not only home in their city but that he was home, forever with his Savior.
So after I wiped away all the tears, I began to think. Why do I view Memorial Day as a chance to have a picnic? Being the week before my birthday and a few weeks after my son’s birthday, it has always been a chance to celebrate. But right there, in the middle of my mini-van, I knew I had been wrong. I knew that the fact that I didn’t waste a poppy was a flat out form of disrespect. These men and women risk their lives every day and night for our freedom, and I realize that the poppy is a symbol of just that.
Per Wikipedia, “Poppies have long since been used as a symbol of sleep and death: sleep because of the opium extracted from them, and death because of the common blood-red color of the red poppy in particular. In Greek and Roman myths, poppies were used as offerings to the dead. Poppies used as emblems on tombstones symbolize eternal sleep.”
So why the poppy? A poem written during World War I by a Canadian surgeon and soldier Lt Colonial John McCrea explains it. He wrote it after witnessing the death of a close friend in that war the day before. Below is this poem, I hope you enjoy it. As you prepare your Memorial Day festivities, I pray that you will join me as I look at this holiday in a whole new light. Praise God for our men and women who serve in order that we may live in freedom, this truly is a gift from Him. Happy Memorial Day!
In Flanders Fields
By: Lt Colonial John McCrea
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.