Memorial Day. It signifies the unofficial start to summer. It means a long weekend with an extra day off for most. It’s time to clean off the grill and throw a party! In the midst of the fun, I always try to reflect a little on what Memorial Day is really about. Here’s what Wikipedia has to say about it’s origin and evolution over the years:
“Memorial Day is a United States federal holiday observed on the last Monday of May. Formerly known as Decoration Day, it commemorates U.S. soldiers who died while in the military service. First enacted to honor Union and Confederate soldiers following the American Civil War, it was extended after World War I to honor Americans who have died in all wars.
Begun as a ritual of remembrance and reconciliation after the civil war, by the early 20th century, Memorial Day was an occasion for more general expressions of memory, as ordinary people visited the graves of their deceased relatives, whether they had served in the military or not. It also became a long weekend increasingly devoted to shopping, family get-togethers, fireworks, trips to the beach, and national media events such as the Indianapolis 500 (since 1911) and the Coca-Cola 600 (since 1960) auto races.”
Memorial Day means a lot to me personally. Many family members have fought in various wars, and I remember vividly the few stories my Grandfather told of flying a bomber during World War 2. He didn’t share many, as he lost a lot of friends and saw many awful things. My parents taught me well to love my country and honor those who have fought and will fight for my freedom. I sometimes feel silly that tears can spring to my eyes so quickly at the mere mention of national holidays like this one. I am so grateful.
We also carry on a Memorial Day tradition that same Grandfather taught me. I remember visiting them on holidays past and going to the local cemetery to watch Veterans hold a ceremony honoring those who have given their lives for our country. Then, we would make the rounds to all the small-town and country cemeteries holding the long-lost family members as my Grandmother would tell me about each of them and how they were related to me.
Though I haven’t been to a Memorial Day service since my Grandfather’s passing several years ago, I still visit my daughter’s grave on this holiday each year. It somehow feels right to visit on a day when I’m not the only one standing solemnly near the grave of a lost loved one. And seeing all those beautiful flags rippling in the wind is a reminder of a country I love and a God who is good… ALL the time.
Yes, my family has plans to go camping, hit some graduation parties, grill out with friends, and enjoy the sunshine this coming Memorial Day Weekend. But you can bet I’ll also have a conversation with my kids about what it all means as we stand near the grave of their big sister and look around at all those flags. Our nation’s history is great, and I hope the value of those who have fought and died for our freedoms will be taught in my family for generations to come.