A colleague of mine recently provided me with a lovely life lesson to remember our fallen. She was wearing a red poppy, a full two weeks ahead of Remembrance Day, before the Royal Canadian Legion has even put out poppy boxes on every corner, and before Hallowe’en. This was a good kind of early start on a national holiday, completely antithetical to usual appearance of Christmas decorations at Costco in August.
Her rationale? Why do we only wear poppies for the week leading up to Remembrance Day? We should be wearing that symbolic red of Flanders Fields, from World War I, with a good lead in to a day that all Canadians should honour, not as just a day off of work or school, but a day to pay homage to those men and women who have sacrificed their lives, both in life and in death, to ensure that we can keep living the easy life.
We are lucky to have first world problems here in Canada and, frankly, I wouldn’t have it any other way. I won the birth lottery the day I was born in Vancouver. I didn’t have to struggle through refugee camps and tangled immigration tape like my grandparents, or have to learn new languages, like both my parents. I didn’t have to deal with racism, poverty, or want. I not only have a high school education, but an university one and, on that note, not one, but two university degrees; I can collect degrees like crackerjack prizes. I have the privilege of voting, of speaking my mind, of taking a sick day off of work without being penalized, of expressing myself in any which way, and of having food on my table. I can throw away food that doesn’t look good or turn up my nose at carbs. I can choose to not take modern medication because I can soapbox about the evils of pharmaceuticals. I can rage on the road behind the wheel of my car. I can toss a shirt when it goes out of fashion.
I have because of the good fight fought by people like my grandfather in World War II Poland, people like the thousands of Canadian and other Allied soldiers who lost their lives in the First and Second World Wars, people like Cpl. Nathan Cirillo and WO Patrice Vincent.
I’m not sure if Vincent saw any action overseas, and I’m certain Cirillo had not, as he was just embarking on his military career, but both had put their lives on the altar of my country, and died on that altar. I am so proud of both these sterling soldiers, and the many unsung thousands who slog through anonymity until such tragedies strike at our very core; only then do we learn their names.
My colleague was right to wear the poppy early.
I dug out last year’s poppy, held with a little Canada flag pin, and put it on the collar of my coat. I’ll wear it the next few weeks, and past November 11, to honour those who lived in war and in peace, and those who died in war and peace, and be thankful that they did it so the rest of us could go about our daily minutiae, living our lives blissfully ignorant of the troubles that this world really has to offer. But at least we can remember, and not just for one day.