A Word on Memorial Day

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.
Arlington National Cemetery, Arlington, VA

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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).

2 thoughts on “A Word on Memorial Day

  1. Amen, Paul, amen. And may we remember and cherish those also, both past and present, who serve and fight and whose bodies and/or minds come home less than whole, with little or no peace, who are unable to leave war and its devastations on the battlefields but, through no choice of their own, bring them home. May we remember and cherish the families, loved ones, and communities who suffer the deep wounds of war, though they themselves may have never been in military battle but nevertheless are left to wrestle with the demons of war that follow their dear ones home.

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    1. Yes, dearest Karen, yes to all you write.

      Earlier this afternoon, in talking with a friend, I recounted a moment, now, over 10 years ago (blessedly, in the span of time, only a moment) of grave illness. I said, “The sickness, unto death, was so severe that, several times, I wished that I was dead so not to experience the pain!”

      As I reflect on our sisters and brothers who return from war-fields broken in body or mind or both, some of whom I know, most of whom I do not, in listening to those I know, I hear the more than faintly whispered wish of wanting to die rather than to continue in the existential grief of war-woundedness.

      May we, as a nation, deepen in our appreciation, understanding, and substantive care for all – the so wounded and as you write, “the families, loved ones, and communities who suffer the deep wounds of war, though they themselves may have never been in military battle but nevertheless are left to wrestle with the demons of war that follow their dear ones home.”

      Love

      Like

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