An annual moment of silence on Remembrance Day is a uniting act for Canadians. But one Winnipegger has been uniting people through a more hands-on act of remembrance over the past year.
After seeing a photo on social media of a blanket made of poppies created in the United Kingdom last year, Sheilah Lee Restall wanted to bring the same concept to Winnipeg. Not just because she enjoys crafts, but because Remembrance Day has always been a meaningful time for her.
"Two of my grandparents served in World War II and partly due to this, as I grew up, my family taught me the depth of the sacrifices that were made, and how important it is that we always remember and always respect and honour the people who served," said Restall. "Remembrance Day is the embodiment of that respect and honour. It is a day where we publicly reflect and display our appreciation for these sacrifices, and honour those that fought for us."
Always remembering, and always respecting and honouring is no passing comment for Restall, and the poppy blanket is no afterthought. The process began last year in October, and the making of the blanket has been continuing all year.
Knowing she couldn't tackle the project alone, Restall reached out to the Handmade Winnipeg group, only to receive overwhelmingly positive responses. For further support, she reached out to her City Councillor, Devi Sharma, who has gotten behind the project whole-heartedly and helped elevate its impact. The initiative has made remembrance not just a moment of solitary reflection once a year, but something that is active and done throughout the year.
"It has been an absolutely phenomenal experience," continued Restall. "I have had the opportunity to meet so many wonderful people from all walks of life, and have heard many different stories about how this project is meaningful to them. From people like me who had grandparents and family serve in war, to people whose family were helped by Canada's efforts in war, to new Canadians who have grown a deep respect and appreciation for these sacrifices of our soldiers."
The project has been an inspiring one for Councillor Sharma, too.
"Over the course of the past year, my community office has been a drop off location for poppies. It's been so touching to see the community come together in this act of remembrance. This heartfelt act of remembrance brought together many volunteers who have personally dedicated their poppies to those who served in wars and peace-keeping missions. It is such a purpose-filled endeavour and has engaged the community to continue in sharing, learning, remembering, and commemorating our fallen soldiers and veterans."
The result is an 85-foot-long blanket that includes over 8000 poppies. And though much of the community has already had a hand in the making of the blanket, Restall, Sharma, and a team of others involved with the project are bringing together more of the community to see the final product.