Memorial Day should include memories. The holiday was established specifically to remember those who died defending their country. In some parts of the country, that observance has broadened to include also remembering other family members and friends who have died. The custom is to visit the cemeteries where they were buried, putting flowers on their graves.
This year, now that my wife and I live in our ancestral homeland of Oklahoma, we took that custom seriously. In the weeks leading up to Memorial Day, we drove all over Oklahoma to decorate the graves of family members. This took us to big cities, small towns, and country burial grounds. We went to Kingfisher, Washington, Vinita, Tulsa, Broken Arrow, and Tonkawa.
This sounds very atavistic, I know. Very weird and gloomy, recalling Victorian sentimentality towards death or animistic ancestor worship. But it wasn’t that way at all!
Our little pilgrimage of filial piety was very meaningful, satisfying, and strangely enjoyable. It did bring back lots of memories of grandparents, great-grandparents, and other relatives that we knew. As well as grateful reflection on the relatives that we didn’t know, who died before our time but without whom we would not exist.Certainly, Memorial Day has become a day to kick off the summer vacations, observed by cooking outside and having a good time with family and friends.
I think that’s a quite appropriate way to honor those who gave their lives defending our freedom, which includes the freedom to cook outside and have a good time with family and friends. But, as we do so, it would be fitting to remember those who made that sacrifice.
I guess for me, now that I have retired and am getting older, I am getting philosophical about the cycle of life and death. Family and friends, as much as we enjoy them now, in the moment, will pass away and have passed away, just as I am passing away. But the memories of those moments are very precious.
And, for Christians, those memories also, strangely, point ahead. We remember not just our own experiences with loved ones, but we also remember God’s promises, including His promise that He will raise the dead, and that we will be reunited in a realm that will never pass away.
Photo: His widow decorates the grave of Medal of Honor winner Paul Ray Smith, killed in action. [See this for details.] Public Domain, https://commons.wikimedia.org/w/index.php?curid=5246063