Yes, yes.. Memorial Day weekend is about more than just hot dogs and hamburgers. And as a somewhat vegan human, it’s more about grilled peppers and asparagus for me anyway. But regardless of diet, “Decoration Day” has lost its meaning just as every other national holiday has lost its meaning over the years.. At least for some.
I always get emotional when I see children placing flowers or flags on the headstones of family members lost in war–some they presumably never even met. Keeping that tradition is a beautiful thing to do ..
When I see sunsets, beautiful ones like I have posted here (this was taken a few weeks ago) a number of thoughts flash through my mind. A sunset is a moment of time when you grind to a halt.. where you watch the sky as the darkness pervades the light.. where you see the last fleeting moments of the light of day vanish into the cold and lonely part of night. And so often as a day dies, beauty persists for a bit..
And isn’t that life? Persistent beauty even up until the hours of fateful endings?
I also think of battlefields when I see a sunset. We don’t know what the sky looked like above Gettysburg and countless soldiers succumbed to slow and painful demises. Normandy? The beaches there had a sunset as well. Korea.. Vietnam.. Iraq.. Afghanistan.. All of the wars. All of the battles.
War is a divisive thing. So often it is also unnecessary but seemingly fought by choice of the leaders of the nation. But the soldiers? They do they thing regardless of order.. they fulfill their mission. They defend their cause. And this nation. And even if you hated the leaders who forced your family members into a battle that they may not have come back from, the deceased warrior did not die for naught.
When they perished, though, when they finally let out their last gasp of air, I wonder if a sunset of beauty appeared above them? They last thoughts racing before brain activity ended may have been filled with beauty of memories. And a last goodbye from the planet earth in the form of vibrant colors.
So don’t forget Memorial Day. Don’t allow yourself to neglect the reason we have it to begin with.
These are some of the words spoken by James Garfield in 1868. The first Decoration Day.
I am oppressed with a sense of the impropriety of uttering words on this occasion. If silence is ever golden, it must be here, beside the graves of fifteen thousand men, whose lives were more significant than speech, and whose death was a poem, the music of which can never be sung. With words we make promises, plight faith, praise virtue. Promises may not be kept, plighted faith may be broken, and vaunted virtue be only the cunning mask of vice. We do not know one promise these men made, one pledge they gave, one word they spoke: but we do know they summed up and perfected, by one supreme act, the highest virtues of men and citizens. For love of country they accepted death, and thus resolved all doubts, and made immortal their patriotism and their virtue.