What’s With The Poppy?

If I were in Canada right now, today, and probably throughout last week and possibly into next week, I would be sporting a commemorative poppy. I usually have to explain this practice to my American friends, as for them, today is Veteran’s Day, which usually brings out American Flags rather than flowers. However, my fellow countrymen and others in the Commonwealth understand the symbolism of the poppy on Remembrance Day.

Once again, the English major in me feels compelled to include the text of the poem. My first college roommate should be familiar with this poem, because while we lived together, and in the subsequent years, I used to force her to listen to me reading Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae’s famous poem, “In Flanders Fields.”

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.poppy

These truly beautiful and powerful words were written by the Canadian physicist after presiding over the funeral of his friend, Alexis Helmer, who fell in the Second Battle of Ypres. According to the story, fellow soldiers found the poem penned by McCrae after he discarded it, seemingly unsatisfied with his work.

Yet, the poem lives on in the psyche of Canadians everywhere, whether living in the U.S., in Israel, or Timbuktu. On November 11th, Canadians remember.

We remember McCrae’s call, “Take up our quarrel with the foe.” He implores us, the living, to continue the struggle against injustice, against wrong. McCrae thrusts upon us the responsibility to carry the torch: “..be yours to hold it high/ If ye break faith with us who die.”

We must continue to carry that torch. We must continue defending freedom and fighting for what we know to be right.

As a Canadian living in Israel on November 11th, I feel proud of Canada’s contributions in World Wars I and II. And, as both a Canadian citizen and an Israeli citizen, I could not be more proud of where Canada is today. For, we have continued McCrae’s legacy. We are holding the torch within the international community as Canada has become Israel’s best friend amidst a world of naysayers, the BDS movement and the constant anti-Israel rhetoric. Canada stands strong with Israel, and on this Remembrance Day I am proud to say that I am Canadian.

About the Author
Born and raised in Vancouver, British Columbia, Nicole Grubner earned her BA in English Literature from Stern College. She taught at SAR Academy in Riverdale, NY, and is now a PR professional living in Israel, working on behalf of Israeli companies to tell their stories in international markets.