Well I have managed to grow poppies that are flowering in my garden. Despite the rains this week causing the tall plants to tumble over each other, the delicate red and orange flowers are raising their heads, reminding me that Remembrance Day is here again. Mingled amongst them is the occasional yellow rose which also symbolises remembrance.These same poppies do appear each year all over France, on roadsides, fields and between cultivated crops.
I went to our Remembrance Day service and each year another thought springs to my mind as I listen to the same ode and the same music. Today I thought about the many people fleeing their countries because of war, failing economies and governments that restrict freedom.
For these men and women that I didn’t know, I will remember their service to our country, our nation and to us whom they couldn’t know. Their lives were given so that we should live in a world that allows freedom of speech and thought. A freedom that should not be taken lightly.
I don’t think I will ever forget the many manicured cemeteries scattered throughout the French countryside. Sometimes it seems there is a cemetery beside each road however minor. It is worth stopping and walking past their tombstones. They are a gentle reminder, chiding us not to forget.
‘When you go home, tell them of us and say,
For your tomorrow, these gave their today.’
John Maxwell Edmonds 1875-1958
Hearing the words about loyalty and service to their country caused me to reflect on what these characteristics really mean. Sitting on my desk at home is my latest ‘Loyalty’ card. Loyalty is too easily trivialised into a point’s game aimed to attract my commercial loyalty to boost corporate profits. True loyalty remains even under extreme duress and absolutely awful conditions.
I reflect on the concept of service. The corporate brand of ‘Customer service’ that is a commercial tactic to increase profit hijacks the integrity of true service. Who considers service any longer? Are we proud of the Service to our country and nation the way these men and women once were? I worry that the collective commitment to our country is being diminished in the public debate that espouses the greater need of individuality and cultural and religious identity over nationhood.
Sitting here listening and thinking is a humbling experience. I haven’t been in a situation where I have been called to give service to my country but I am surrounded by many family members who have. My feelings reach out to other mothers, daughters, sisters, and wives who waited and worried. These feelings have been shared by generations of women and men not just for the 100 years since World War 1 (WW1) but forever.
The words of John Maxwell Edmonds were part of a collection of epitaphs for WW1 are an adaptation of words written by a Greek poet, Simondes of Cios 556-468 BC on the battle of Thermophylae in 480BC between the Greeks and the Persians.
Go tell the Spartans, thou that passest by,
That faithful to their precepts here we lie.