For as long as I have owned a car, a scarlet red corn poppy has always hung from my rear view mirror. I was seven years old when my grandfather, a WWI vet, passed away from cancer. At his funeral, members of the VFW handed out "buddy poppies" and I remember my own father, grieving his father's death, hung his on the rear view mirror of our baby blue Ford Fairhaven station wagon. The nights following my Grandpa's death, I recall vivid dreams of laying in neverending fields of white poppies, that eventually became red, as though sodden with blood. Despite my young age, these recurring dreams were not terrifying, but somehow comforting. The poppy holds a very personal place in my heart, and, only with the wisdom that comes with age, have I fully understood it's special meaning.
So, if you are out and about stocking up on your BBQ necessities this long holiday weekend and a VFW or American Legion member hands you that "buddy poppy" in exchange for your donation, kindly tip your hat, say "thank you" and shake a hero's hand. Remember that the poppy is a symbol of hope to remember the living, but also, of death, and to honor the fallen.