Sunday, May 29, 2016


Red Remembrance Poppy, Jamestown, NC

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.
-- In Flander’s Fields by John McCrae

“Honor the Dead by Helping the Living”

Memorial weekend is a great beginning to the summer beach days in the sun with outdoor grilling and good times culminating with Labor Day to bookend the season. But the blooming poppy in my backyard garden on this overcast day with a tropical storm on the doorstep gives us all pause to remember the reason for the holiday. Memorial Day was created to remember the men and women who died while serving this great country while Veterans Day celebrates the service of all military veterans. It also gives us all pause to remember those loved souls who have gone before us.

Whenever I see a poppy flower I’m always reminded of my grandmother who all of us grandkids called Mom. She proudly displayed a gold star in her front picture window like many others in our central Kansas town. The practice was started in World War I when families hung Service Flags in their windows. A blue star on the flag represented any family member serving in the military during a conflict and it was replaced by a gold star if that loved one died. My grandmother and our family tragically knew that grief along with Grace Seibold of Washington, D.C. who lost her son in WWI. Grace realized that self-contained grief is self-destructive, so she organized a group consisting solely of those special mothers whose sons had lost their lives in military service and named that group the Gold Star Mothers.

The Gold Star Mothers held regular meetings which we would call support groups today. I distinctly remember my grandmother dressing up and never missing her Gold Star meetings. I didn’t understand the full meaning of those gatherings, and her profound grief, until much later in life. And I remember my sister and me standing on a Main Street corner with Mom passing out VFW Buddy Poppies to shoppers. These small artificial flowers are made by disabled and needy veterans in VA hospitals and other locations. You do not sell them, but the donations from those that accept the poppies are returned to these veterans along with widows and orphans of veterans. I do believe that Mom suggested a five cent donation when we were asked, however. These red poppies were inspired by the WWI poem In Flanders Fields. We always looked forward to accompanying Mom on those ventures, never suspecting that she was modeling a lifetime of partnering with others to help heal the world and us too.

And she was also modeling a behavior of partnering with our Creator to always try to bring something good out of a tragic situation when a loved one does not emerge from one of the devastating storms of life.

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