Today we mark Memorial Day here in the US. Memorial Day is one of those holidays that seems to gain more meaning with every year that passes.
When I was a kid in school, Memorial Day always seemed like a bit of torture – it was a glimpse at what summer vacation would be like, but we’d always have 1-2 weeks of school left to go through. When you’re a kid, 2 weeks of school can seem like an eternity, especially when you know the sun is shining and warm outside.
As the years have gone on, the enormity of what Memorial Day is all about hits me a bit harder. I think about my ancestors who fought in the American Revolution, side by side with George Washington. What were their experiences like in that war, fighting a war the likes of which had never been seen before?
I think about my ancestors who fought in the Civil War, and the fact that family legend says our family was split over that conflict. I think about my ancestors who, it seems, were killed when the Sultana exploded.
I think about my grandfather, who was in the Navy throughout the World War II conflict, and who saw things that I can’t imagine. I always knew him as a kind of bear-like man who loved his Cleveland Indians and who never seemed to move out of his favorite chair. Could that be the same man who sailed from Iceland to the Philippines and everywhere in between?
Even more than all of that though, I think about what it must be like to have a loved one fighting in a far-off place. My life is filled with people I love who are spread around the world, and there is always a kind of anxiety that distance causes, even though I know they are all as safe as we can all be in this world. How can you struggle through when you are not only dealing with distance but also the uncertainty of whether that person you love has survived the day? Especially with 24/7 news and the internet. Every report of violence in the world would make my heart sink.
I don’t know how people cope with that.
And I certainly can’t imagine how the people who are in the thick of it cope with it.
I can say, with no small amount of shame, that I am not sure I would be able to bear either of those scenarios.
As I get older, those are the things I think about every Memorial Day. Rather than lamenting the loss, which is too hard to grasp, I think about how lucky I am. All of my loved ones are in their homes, safe, untouched by the wars being waged around the world except in indirect ways. How lucky am I? How lucky are we?
With a bowed head in reverence to those who are not so lucky, who have not been so lucky, I will humbly celebrate, today, the immense wealth and fortune my heart gets to experience on a daily basis, thanks in no small part to those who have lost their lives and their loved ones.
Even if you are in a place that does not mark today as a holiday – it is worth thinking about, don’t you think?
Image by Robert Linder. http://www.sxc.hu/profile/linder6580