Memorial Day

Author: Michele Hiester Marcum

And here we are almost to Memorial Day again.  Heavy sigh.  Sad heart. This is the 9th one we've "celebrated" since my brother left this earth, and it seems impossible that it's been that long.  But I know it's right, because I just counted them out on my fingers!  Before I know it, I'll need more than two hands to tick off the quickening years.  So much has changed and yet nothing has changed at all.  It's a perplexing paradox to be caught between the past and the future, in this time called the present.  I know that some refer to the "present" as a gift, but I'm just not feeling very charitable right now, I guess.  It's as though the body forges ahead while the heart lags behind, hoarding memories and stuffing them in her pockets.

Hiester Gravestone

I remember well when Memorial Day was all about a 3-day weekend which would propel us into summer.  It meant produce stands would begin popping up along county roads and plastic flower vendors would peddle their gaudy bouquets in any available parking lot, reminding passersby to pay their respects at the nearest cemetery.  Memorial Day meant that school days were over and life was about to become F-U-N.  

While I miss those carefree days, wrapped up in my young idealistic perceptions, there is something about this national holiday that now ushers in a welcome sense of renewal for me as an adult.  For one day, the whole nation remembers our fallen.  For one day, they remember our loved ones.  For one day, they remember my brother.  And they mourn with me.  And for one day, the entire country lifts their eyes to the red, white and blue, places their hands over their hearts, and believes that we are truly one nation. 

Yes, I know it's not really the whole nation doing this.  I'm pretty certain it's a miniscule percentage of the population that can even define the purpose of the holiday, but I sometimes prefer blind optimism to disappointing reality.  And yes, I know there are doubters among us and even those hell-bent on terrorizing America.  There are those who have never suffered loss, who have never heard the words "On behalf of a grateful nation…" uttered in reference to their loved ones. (I envy them.) Some will knowingly choose to enjoy the privileges granted by our service members and never acknowledge the sacrifice.  But none of that will stop me from holding on to what I know to be the truth: Memorial Day is for remembering.

And remember, I shall.  

I remember the sacrifice, both my brother's and mine.  I remember your sacrifice too.  Yes, yours.  I remember the very person for whom you grieve.  Perhaps not by name, but in spirit.  I don't need to know how our fallen fell, only that they did. And for that, my heart knows them without ever having met them.  They paid the ultimate price in exchange for our freedom.  What an honor it is to remember!

The days charge ahead, seemingly picking up speed with each passing change of date.  Days become weeks and weeks turn into months.  Time passes whether we want it to or not, but I will stop on this one day and simply remember.  Remember the love, celebrate the life, share the journey. 

How fitting that the root word of memorial is memory.  Happy Memory Day, everyone!