Mielke: Poppy a symbol of what we have to remember

The little red poppy, which no doubt has dropped off someone’s lapel, is a scarlet splash of colour against the gray cement driveway outside the nursing home.

I pick it up as I head through the doors of the nursing home.

It is cold outside with a biting wind and I’m grateful for the warmth that assails me when I walk inside. I wrap my bright wool scarf around me tighter.

My brother waits patiently for my sister and me in his room. The walls, decorated with many pictures of war memorials, medal presentations and awards save the room from being somewhat cold and Spartan with its single bed covered with a nondescript caramel coloured blanket.

Thanks to the loving hands of his wife, the room is a reflection of the man and a life well lived. And it is also a vivid reminder of why we all wear that little red poppy on Nov. 11.

Quietly he waits. His green Korean Veteran’s cap has slipped down over his forehead almost covering his penetrating blue eyes.

I tilt it back at a more jaunty angle and kiss his cheek, pinning the poppy I found onto his T-shirt.

“Did you pay for that, Treen,” he questioned sharply.

“No,” I said quietly. “You did.”

And as I sit there talking about this, that and the other thing and finally wheeling him out for his supper, my mind drifts out of the nursing home to all the Remembrance Day ceremonies I have covered and to all the men and women I have had the privilege of interviewing. Men such as my brother. Men who faced fear and an unknown enemy on land, sea and in the skies.

Men and women who would do it again. And again.

Always there will be wars and rumours of wars, I think.

And always there will be men and women who go to these wars. Some come home.

Some do not!

As I drive home I notice the highway lined with Canadian flags.

The flags blow fierce and proud in the November winds.

And once again as Remembrance Day 2016 draws closer I am reminded to count my blessings, not the least of which are the freedom to drive by these flags, blowing fierce and proud in the November winds.

I think of the words written by newspaperman William S. Ogden in a column that appeared in the New York Times on Dec. 30, 1945.

Ogdon was home, back in the newsroom, back in civilian clothes, after serving in Guam and on the Pacific. As fate would have it, he was one of the lucky ones. He got to come home.

For that privilege, he was eternally grateful. This sentiment, however, did not appear to be shared by his co-workers, or, for that matter, people in general.

They grumbled. They complained. They wanted somebody, preferably the government to fix their woes.

I think of Ogdon’s words written in 1945. “to live content with small means; to study hard, think quietly, talk gently, act frankly, to listen to the stars and birds, to babes and sages, with open heart, to bear all cheerfully and do all bravely.

It will be noted that no government can do this for you; you must do it for yourself.”

And I’m thinking those same words could be written now.

It’s great to wear a poppy. But to be grateful and to remember why we have that privilege is what’s important.

That’s what counts!

Treena Mielke lives in Sylvan Lake and is editor of the Rimbey Review. She has been a journalist and columnist for more than 25 years. Treena is married to Peter and they have three children and six grandchildren.

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