This post was originally published on Memorial Day, 2014. It’s just as timely today.
Today is Memorial Day in The United States of America. This holiday—when we formally remember the men and women who died while serving in our armed forces—began after The America Civil War to honor the Union and Confederate soldiers who perished in that war. There were over 625,000 casualties, and the enormity of memorializing and burying almost 2% of the population took on huge significance. Originally called “Decoration Day”, because graves were decorated as a form of honoring the dead, it was renamed “Memorial Day” in 1882, but wasn’t declared the “official” name until 1967.
“In memoriam” is Latin for “in memory of”. We have different ways of honoring the memory of someone significant. We may set aside time to reflect on the impact that person had on our life. We may journal, or pray, or throw a party to celebrate that person. We may find ourselves sad, or even depressed—especially if the pain of the loss is profound or very fresh. We may question why that person was “taken from us”, or how we can possibly live out our remaining days without that loved one’s presence. But, no matter how we move forward, we have been permanently altered by that relationship.
The much-read poet, Lord Alfred Tennyson, wrote “In Memoriam”—a work composed of 131 smaller poems he penned from 1833 to 1849 then linked together in 1850. Tennyson wrestled with the purpose of his life, but trusted that man was not created, simply to die. He believed that we could only reach God through faith, and that he had a responsibility to positively influence the world. Tennyson suffered greatly after the death of his closest friend, Arthur Hallam, but believed that his friend lived on in a higher form.
I hold a belief system similar to Tennyson’s. I, too, believe in “another side”—where our spirits (or souls or essence) live on— and, although I certainly don’t desire to leave this earth for a long time, I’m curious about what it’s going to be like on that spirit side. It will be interesting to understand why I’ve done (or not done) some things, in this life.
I believe that everything we say (or don’t say) and do (or don’t do), changes our realities. I’ve seen the pain that just a few unkind or angry words can create. I’ve seen lives that have been filled with heartbreak because of abuse or neglect. And, I’ve seen the power of a loving hand, the joy of the gift of time given, and a heart that’s been touched by a single word of love.
The last stanza of “In Memoriam” is,
That God, which ever lives and loves,
One God, one law, one element,
And one far-off divine event,
To which the whole creation moves.
This Memorial Day, let’s take the time to remember all those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we can enjoy the freedom we often take for granted. At 3:00 pause for a moment of silence—The “National Moment of Remembrance”.
Remember loved ones who have moved to the other side. Honor those who have come before us and impacted our lives in a positive way.
Finally, think about your walk through this life. How many others has your spirit had the amazing gift to touch? What mark will you make in our world? How will you be remembered? What part are you playing in, as Tennyson writes, the way the “whole creation moves“? When you leave this life, what will your epitaph say “in memoriam”?
My hope—for all of us—is to flourish in lives filled with love, by being our best selves, in our families, in our homes, in our communities and in our world so that one day, generations that follow us, may enjoy not only Peace Full Homes, but, also, a Peace Full World.