Wednesday, November 7, 2012

A Rose for Remembrance

May I use this letter to say 'thank you'?  It's a heartfelt and wide-ranging 'thank you'.

Let me explain.
Earlier this week I was collecting for this year's Poppy Appeal.  I collect every year, but this year's session was memorable in a way that it's never been before.

First of all, although I know they'll never read this message,  I want to thank the throngs of people who literally queued to stuff coins and notes into my collecting tin . . . some even thanking me for being there.  When the two-hour session came to an end, the tin could barely accept any more money.

 I'm grateful to all of them . . . to those who bought poppy wrist-bands, poppies for their cars, silken and metallic poppies and, to the large majority who bought the traditional poppies . . .  emblems which I carefully pinned to their jackets, whilst wondering a little anxiously just how long my insecure pinning would hold!

As I stood there, sticking pins through the petals, I was reminded all too keenly of grief . . . and suffering . . . and of amazing resilience.

I was reminded of what the poppies symbolise and how, each year on Remembrance Sunday, a dense cloud of poppy petals descends slowly from the ceiling of the Albert Hall . . . one petal for each of the fallen.

There is a poignancy and a passion to the Poppy Appeal.

I was also conscious of the fact that the word 'remembrance' can in itself seem restrictive.  It's a word that appears to limit these events to the past.
But warfare is still with us.
During my two hours of poppy-selling, how many people lost their lives fighting for a belief, a government or a despotic leader?

Half-way through the session a surprising incident took place.
Making his way along the busy pavement came a stranger.  In his out-stretched hand he carried a long-stemmed, white rose.
Walking up to my stand, he smiled . . . solemnly handed me the rose . . . then turned away and was once again swallowed up into the crowd.

I couldn't believe it . . . it was such an unexpected gift . . . such a beautiful rose.
With care, I propped it against a box of poppies.

Now, several days later, sharing this story with you has caused me to pause and think.

Are we, perhaps, finally emerging from the long-held belief that bloodshed can solve discord and bring unity?

Are we awakening to the liberating knowledge that peace . . . a brilliant white peace, harmonising and uniting all shades of discord . . . can only come when we search for common ground?

Horticulturists use dried blood as a fertiliser.  Dare we hope that we might now see white roses of peace rising out of the bloodied battle-fields of the past?

The rose came home with me . . . as did my poppy.

Who knows what the future holds, but perhaps we should start to plan . . . to plan that, however uncertain the future, we'll grow white roses rather than blood-stained poppies.
When we pause to remember the fallen on November 11th, surely that's the vital question that humanity needs to ask . . . the question we all need to answer?