It's just gone 11:00 AM on 11/11/11. We're at home and set an alarm to make sure we remembered to listen to the radio at the hour. When the Last Post began we stopped for a minute in silence in memory of the fallen in so many wars. We do this wherever we are at this time and on this day because we believe it's important, not just because we have lost family members in war although we have. These are men and women whose lives were cut short, who left behind families and friends whose lives were changed irrevocably. They were defending something they believed was important enough to be prepared to lose their lives.
So you will understand how disappointed I was a few years ago at a major shopping centre when there was no announcement over the public address system, no playing of the Last Post and no acknowledgement of those who died. I doubt it would have been noticed even if they had. Anyone in the shops nearest me at the time - trendy fashion boutiques with music blasting so loud it was deafening - wouldn't have heard the announcement. I hope things have changed. They may have given that we have just had the reality of war brought home to us again by recent events in Afghanistan.
The symbol of Remembrance Day is the field poppy. It grows across Europe, its scarlet and crimson petals a poignant reminder of spilled blood and, at the same time, renewal. Many years ago I visited the battlefields of Flanders. It was a grey, blustery early Spring day and the poppies showed bravely against the fields. It was a touching reminder of Lieutenant Colonel John McCrae's well known poem In Flanders Fields. You can find the words of this beautiful poem and more about McCrae here.
As it happens, just outside my window, I can see the last of this season's field poppies in my garden. A breeze has come up and the earth beneath them is scattered with every shade of red as their petals fall like drops of blood. A gentle reminder. Lest we forget.