A few days ago, I stood by the side of a family friend as the final specks of soil were placed on the grave site of his now departed father. As the few of us stood there as a show of solidarity and support for him and his family, we curiously noticed that a car pulled up with an occupant that no one recognized. The curiosity drew mostly from that fact that a majority of the attendees had left some time ago for the repast. As the cemetery workers were completing their task, one of us went to inquire of the occupation of the car to see if they needed any assistance. Upon entreating the car’s occupant, we found a woman who was simply waiting for the workers to finish their works so that she could place flags on a few graves in the immediate vicinity in remembrance of Memorial Day. As we stood there, I thought about Memorial Day and what it was to me.
In this time of what seems like perpetual war, the very notion of remembering those who sacrificed their lives on the battlefield for our freedom seem like a daily occurrence. Yet the first thing that comes to my mind when Memorial Day comes around are memories of traveling from one cemetery to the next to place silk flowers on the graves of family members that I had never known with my Great Grandmother. Some of those ancestors did lose their lives fighting in a war, and some we were just there to pay our respects. In many ways I regret being a child during those moments. As a child I didn’t understand the importance of realizing and recognizing those that we were honoring. Now as an adult, I realize the need for that level of understanding and feel some ancestral void knowing that the information was lost when she passed away so many years ago.
For me Memorial Day (as are many other holidays) is not just about what we do, or what the official reason for the holiday is, but it is about her and the lessons that she thought me. It a reminder of the time I had with her, and the knowledge that will be forever lost to myself and my family. It is also part of my daily existence as I ask this question of my path through life: “Would the man that I am today make her proud?” As I plod down this windy road of life I try to answer the questions as best as I can and face the harsh reality that sometimes the answer is NO. Yet still my everyday, my every action, breath, and thought is in memorial to her and the guidance that helped shaped me into who I am today.
In the same way that I remember my great-grandmother for her sacrifices and struggles that paved the way for my family and for the man that I am today, I remember those that have shed their blood on the battlefield to ensure freedom, not just our freedom but freedom for all. Your sacrifice is never forgotten. For just like my great-grandmother, your sacrifices and struggles have paved the way not just for me, but for our country and world. For that we are eternally thankful!