Note: Memorial Day (or Decoration Day), observed on the last Monday in May, is a federal holiday in the United States for remembering and honoring those who have died while serving in the United States Armed Forces.
Yesterday, whilst attending a Memorial Day weekend party at the home of dear friends, I was asked to share a word of prayer before dinner was served. This is what I said:
“Sometimes, in public settings like this, I don’t offer prayers, but rather commentaries on current events. In my hearing, we humans often use the words ‘celebrate’ and ‘commemorate’ interchangeably. I, as often, discern a distinction between the two. For me, to celebrate is to cheer and to commemorate is to cherish. We, in this spacious and lovely setting with abundant food and drink and pleasant, though warm, weather, gather this day to celebrate, Yet, I pray, that we not, that we never forget how it is that we can gather and celebrate. There are those, some known to us, most unknown to us, who, in the service of our country, sacrificed their lives that we, today, have the freedom to think and speak as we do, to have our will and way in this world, and to vote for whomever we choose. Today, let us commemorate, let us cherish all who died that we might gather and celebrate with cheer. Amen.”
Photograph: A scene of the Arlington National (Military) Cemetery, Arlington County, Virginia; the burial place of over 400,000 souls who died in the course of the American nation’s conflicts, beginning with the Civil War (1861-1865).