The fallen red poppy

Heather Cowley
Admin Assistant to MARPAC HQ CO

It’s that special time of year! We see many people bearing the Remembrance Day red poppy pin.  

What’s the meaning behind the red flower? What does it symbolize for you? Brave soldiers marching? The In Flanders Field poem? Wartime historic missions of long ago?

For some people, this red poppy means the above and significantly more, yet for others, perhaps it represents just a change of season.

One early November evening, my husband Rick and I were out for dinner at a local establishment, watching a ballgame on the big screen. The table in front of us seated three friends, who had arrived from the cold outside. As one removed her warm coat, her red poppy dislodged and fell to the ground. We saw it land, face down under her seat on the dusty floor. My husband, an Airforce veteran of 36 years, felt the value and significance of this poignant poppy immediately. This red poppy, intended to be worn proudly, could not be left abandoned on a cold floor to be crushed, ruined, or forgotten. Duty compelled him to protect and return this meaningful emblem to its rightful owner.

Silently, he rose from the comfort of his chair, walked over, retrieved the precious fallen red poppy, and dusted it off, gently and quickly placing it face up beside its owner. He was completely unnoticed in this busy, noisy establishment, by anyone, except me.

I was humbled though not surprised by this small act of thoughtful kindness from my husband, forever and always, a soldier’s heart.

I desperately wanted to tell the customer of my husband’s retrieval of her fallen poppy, but Rick instantly said, ‘No, say nothing please’. His humility is always first and foremost, not only in this instance but in his many acts of instinctive generosity, often unnoticed.

He astounds me. His civility and kindness performed without expecting praise, exudes from his big heart, much bigger than mine can comprehend. He sincerely and without a doubt, is my hero.

I sat teary-eyed, fully aware of what a simple fallen red poppy meant to him. As a military spouse, I witnessed many joys and heartaches, and understood the life of a Canadian Armed Forces member. My husband has lived through countless times away from family and loved ones, never having a home for long, the numerous moves, the dangerous overseas tours, fears, and loneliness. Military life is full of ups and downs, with tireless dedication to all else, this country and the monarch; a career well done with many achievements, though hand-in-hand with endless sacrifices.

So, as time came for the three friends to leave, I again said to Rick, ‘I have to tell them what you did!’ and, again, his response was, ‘No, I did what was important, there’s no need to draw attention to it’.

Sometimes, a story is so deserving it needs to be heard. I ran outside and introduced myself to the lady whose poppy had fallen. I explained how my retired military husband had noticed it fall to the ground, and how he couldn’t let it rest alone on the cold floor. She said she noticed it on the table beside her and wondered how it got there but thought nothing more. Yet now, she wanted to meet Rick to pay her respect. All three friends were visibly moved by his simple performance to return one red poppy, quietly and unobserved. ‘Please, I’d like to meet him and thank him!’ she said.

As the four of us returned to Rick’s table, he gave me a ‘look’, yet shyly said hello and shook hands with each lady. He graciously accepted the thank-yous and listened to why they each displayed a poppy. We were all briefly united, very grateful to express our sentiment for that fallen poppy, now a positive outcome story to tell. They thanked him for what he’d done that evening and for his many selfless years of dedicated service to our country. My heart was proud and bursting as we all shared a moment of thankfulness amongst strangers. As they said goodbye and turned to walk away, I overheard them say, ‘Well now, wasn’t that so very special!’, and ‘Indeed, it certainly was!’.

You never know who’s watching and listening, you never know what a small act of kindness can mean to someone else. I’m glad we shared this moment. We need uplifting, inspiring news and to know there are people out there doing the right thing, no matter how small.

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