Monday, May 30, 2011


1 : serving to preserve remembrance : commemorative
2 : of or relating to memory

As I prayed tonight with each of my daughters, we prayed for the people who have given their lives for us to have the freedom to openly pray and worship, amongst other things. It's not a very big way to commemorate this day, but it's something.  My family used this day for practical purposes.  I collected, sorted, washed, folded and put away laundry.  J switched over computer files and did yard work.  The girls read, played and rested.  All in all, it was a day that will make this week easier.  With only a day and a half left of school for B and K, we are all ready for summer to start.

But while we needed a day of relative rest and recuperation, I'm ending this day pondering how I'd like for our family to celebrate future Memorial Days.  Is there a way we could make it more than just a holiday to celebrate the start of summer?

The very idea of memorial and remembrance is a bit foreign in our culture.  We have very short memories (hence our love of American history above all types of World history in the classroom). We're a people about looking forward, not back.  Looking back makes us uncomfortable.  It forces us to realize our own smallness compared to the greater world.  It puts our own mortality front and center as we realize we'll one day be a part of the stream of history.  For all these reasons and more, it's difficult to know how to celebrate this day in a more intentional way.

My own personal feelings about Memorial Day are perhaps colored by my politics.  I didn't agree with President Bush's decision to invade Iraq based on the information we had available, but I have complete respect for my brother and others who serve in the military.  To further complicate matters, I'm a pacifist at heart.  In college, I wrote a paper about Spike Lee's Do the Right Thing and Henry David Thoreau's Civil Disobedience.  The paper stands out in my memory for two reasons: 1) It was the first A I got on a paper in college and 2) I struggled mightily with the subject.  I met with the professor.  I asked for and received an extension.  I recall thinking that the right answer was that violence was sometimes necessary, but I could not get myself to actually believe that.

But I have the luxury of being a pacifist because of where I live.  I have the luxury of having a three day weekend with my family all under one roof because my husband works for a corporation, not a military branch.  I have the luxury to ponder how the world should work, how I'd like for it to be because I am not afraid to walk on my streets.  I don't have to worry about bus bombings or snipers.  All of these luxuries are mine because of the people today commemorates.

I'm still not sure how I'd like to celebrate Memorial Day.  I'd like to find something that feels authentic, not cheesy.  I'm not a flag-waving kind of girl.  But could we write letters to deployed troops on Memorial Day morning and pray for the soldiers that evening?  That would be a start.  I've got another 364 days to think about it.  In the meantime, I'm going to work on being thankful for my everyday freedoms and not living like I'm entitled to them.


Anonymous said...

Thank you for mentioning your brother today. - Christine

RBM said...

Thank you for this post. It means a lot to me when civilians recognize the service of our men and women in uniform and how we (their families) are often separated from them on these kind of 3 day weekends. Since Memorial Day is for remembering those who died (and Veteran's Day for recognizing those who are still alive), might I suggest that instead of writing to deployed soldiers on Memorial Day, you write to the families of those who have lost a loved one? (You could write to deployed soldiers on Veteran's Day.) Gold Star Wives is a Congressionally chartered non-profit organization made up of widows and widowers whose spouses died while on active duty. It was begun by WWII widows. I am sure they could send your letters to some of their members or suggest other service projects.