Poems and poppies-why we remember John McCrae-physician, poet, reluctant soldier

Originally from Canada, Dr.McCrae was an English and math teacher, as well as a poet, before he attended medical school. He moved to England and was practicing there when World War I broke out, and he was called to serve as a brigade-surgeon.

In the United States,  we have several observance days that honor our military, past and present, living and deceased. A flower, the poppy, represents two of them- Memorial Day, in May, and Veterans’ Day, in November.

 

armed forces emblems over a field of poppies
photo used compliments of the American Legion Auxiliary

Why poppies?

I love the story of the poppies because it has a medical connection.

In the battlefields of Belgium during World War I, poppies grew wild amid the ravages of war. The overturned soils of battle covered  the poppy seeds to,  allowing them to grow and forever serve as a reminder of the bloodshed of war.

Out of this conflict came a poem, from which also came the association with poppies .

 And, the poem has a medical connection.

The now famous poem, In Flanders Fields, was written by a Canadian physician, Lt. Col. John McCrae.

Dr. John McCrae

Originally from Canada, Dr.McCrae was an English and math teacher, as well as a poet, before he attended medical school. He moved to England and was practicing there when World War I broke out, and he was called to serve as a brigade-surgeon.

I suspect that as a physician, he was deeply  pained by  treating the wounded, and the loss of those he could not save.

“In April 1915, McCrae was stationed in the trenches near Ypres, Belgium, in an area known as Flanders, during the bloody Second Battle of Ypres.

In the midst of the tragic warfare, McCrae’s friend, twenty-two-year-old Lieutenant Alexis Helmer, was killed by artillery fire and buried in a makeshift grave.

The following day, McCrae, after seeing the field of makeshift graves blooming with wild poppies, wrote his famous poem “In Flanders Field,” which would be the second to last poem he would ever write.”

(from John McCrae at poets.org)

In Flanders Fields

by Dr. John McCrae

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.

This poem is in the public domain.

Soon after writing “In Flanders Fields,” McCrae was transferred to a hospital in France . Saddened and disillusioned by the war, McCrae found respite in writing letters and poetry, and wrote his final poem, “The Anxious Dead.”

In the summer of 1917, McCrae began suffering from severe asthma attacks and bronchitis. McCrae died of pneumonia and meningitis on January 28, 1918.

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sharing the HEART of health

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

This post is dedicated to all those in the armed services of the United States, past and present. And for others, please remember those in your nation who are and have served you.

And may our world be blessed with peace and cooperation so that conflict among them is never needed again.

2 oval plates with words "thank you"

Dr Aletha

May timely topics-memories, memorials, and mothers

events that typically occur in May include proms, graduations, and weddings. Unfortunately due to the pandemic, those are either not happening or are done vastly different than usual. Some are finding quite creative ways to still create meaningful memories.

May is a month of celebrations and remembrances.

You’ll find several affiliate links in this post, to help me fund this blog and give extra value to you, my readers.

In the United States, we call the second Sunday in May Mothers’ Day to honor mothers. We may not be one, but we all have one, although like me, yours may be deceased.

You may have pleasant or not so pleasant memories of your mother, as nurturing may not come easily to some women, possibly because they did not receive it. Sometimes when that happens, other women step in to bridge the gap. They deserve to be honored also.

Other events that typically occur in May include proms, graduations, and weddings. Unfortunately due to the pandemic, those are either not happening or are done vastly different than usual. Some are finding quite creative ways to still create meaningful memories.

I married my husband in May; I almost share an anniversary with the Duchess of Sussex, the former American actress Meghan Markle. She and Prince Harry are parents of a cute baby boy, Archie. And now they live in the United States, California. Their marriage has been strained by outside and internal stressors, as have most of ours. I wrote about our marriage journey in this post

Two words that changed my life.

May timely topics include

thanks for exploring the HEART of health with me

I appreciate all of you who are following Watercress Words, and if you aren’t I invite you to join the wonderful people who are. You can meet some of them in the sidebar, where you can click on their image and visit their blogs. Use the form to get an email notification of new posts. Don’t worry, you won’t get anything else from me.

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cheesy-free faith-focused stock photos

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Dr Aletha

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