Memorial Day—a time for formally remembering the men and women who died while serving in the armed forces—began after The American Civil War to honor the over 625,000 Union and Confederate soldiers who died in that war. The sheer enormity of memorializing and burial took on immense significance. Originally called “Decoration Day,” because decorated graves were a way of honoring the dead, it was renamed “Memorial Day” in 1882. However, it wasn’t declared “official” until 1967 when passed by federal law.
Many of us memorialize loved ones who have died, by setting aside time to reflect on the impact that person had on our life. We may find ourselves sad or depressed, especially if the pain of loss is profound or fresh, and ask, “why that person was taken from me?” or “how will I go on without someone I love so much?”
So many people have affected my life in a way that’s been unforgettable. I remember, a man I worked for many years ago saying something so beautiful yet profound in its simplicity, that I’ve never forgotten it. One day, as we talked about the challenges I was having, I said: “I just don’t see the light at the end of the tunnel, Gene.” Without missing a beat, he said to me, “then let those of us who love you hold a flashlight.” All these years later, I can still hear him saying those words.
Lord Alfred Tennyson wrote “In Memoriam,” a composition of 131 smaller poems he linked together in 1850. Tennyson wrestled with the reason for his life but trusted that man’s destiny was not just to be born and then die. He believed that the way to reach God was through faith and that he had a responsibility to have an influence on the world. He suffered greatly with the death of his closest friend but believed that his friend still existed in a higher form.
Although not as eloquent as Tennyson, I hold a belief system similar to his. I’m in no hurry to leave the earth, but I am curious about what it’s going to be like on the spirit side, excited to understand why I’ve done (or not done) some things in this life. I believe that our spirits live on and that everything we say or don’t say, do, or don’t do, changes our paths.
I’ve seen lives that have been agonizing because of abuse or neglect and the pain that unkind or angry words create.
I’ve also seen the power of caring hands, the joy of the gift of time given, and hearts that were mended by words of love.
Let’s take the time to remember our loved ones who have moved to the other side, and those who made the ultimate sacrifice so that we enjoy the freedom we often take for granted.
Honor those who came before you and positively impacted your life.
Finally, think about your walk. How many other lives have you touched? How will you be remembered by the mark you make in our world? 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 prayer is for us to experience lives filled with love; being our best selves, in our families, homes, communities, and world, so that one day, generations that follow us, may enjoy not only peace-filled homes but also a Peace Full World.
To all the families who live with the grief of having a loved one die to protect our country and the freedom we, much too often, take for granted, I pray that this day brings you peace. Thank you for your sacrifice.
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