A couple of weeks back I went into London with my family to see "Blood Swept Lands and Seas of Red", otherwise known as the Tower Poppies. Two of them will be sent to us when it is dismantled.
|My photo - there are thousands online that might capture it better|
And yet, I think it is right to question the way in which we commemorate the horrors of war that our forebears experienced, and far too many around the world today are still subject to. Commemorations are as old as recorded warfare itself, often as grandiose imperial monuments (I'm looking at you, Egyptians and Romans), but not always. The inscribed slab near Thermopylae (a 1955 replacement for a lost and damaged ancient original) has a famous epitaph for the fabled 300 Spartans who perished defending their homeland from the invading Persians. As with the Tower poppies, this monument does not refer to the others who died, were wounded, or suffered in other ways (allies, foes, non-combatants, women, or children), but it still has power for me:
Go tell the Spartans, stranger passing by, that here, according to their laws, we lie
A permanent reminder, in the form of such a memorial, is an important first step. A literal memento mori, a Lest we Forget in stone or metal. But it is only a first step. The truest honouring of the fallen is a far more difficult monument to build, indeed it requires every one of us to continually participate in its construction. What is it?