I wrote a poem this morning while shoveling cheerios at my son and sipping my morning coffee because every year Memorial Day makes me stop – even when the world around me doesn’t. So much was given and so much was taken by the sacrifice of the men and women who died protecting the United States. Freedom and restoration was given, birthdays and anniversaries were taken. May you and yours be a household that remembers. And if you hold the ache of Memorial Day in your heart and home every day – Thank you. I am so sorry for your loss and cannot imagine your -pain. May you find in America a nation that cares about your sorrow.
I woke up this morning next to the man I love and to the pokes and wiggles of our son in my belly. Our small home is quiet and serene as a light drizzle tips out of the gray skies and I pad my way into the kitchen for morning coffee and pancakes. It’s a normal and uninteresting morning in my world.
But today I stare out the window and consider what it’s like for people who wake up today and wish to God their lives had nothing to do with Memorial Day. That they could just wake up and make pancakes and continue on as normal. But chances are, before this date showed up on their calendar — a missed anniversary did, a child’s birthday party without their dad has come and gone. Days of celebration have become clouded with a throbbing, tangible absence.
He’s not coming home. She never made it back.
War is war, friends. You can like it or lump it. But regardless of how you feel about war, I encourage you to take a moment and consider that you woke up today. Maybe your life isn’t a cheery bed of roses and you’re going through something hard — I pray you have friends and family who are surrounding you to help you through it. While we all have heavy burdens to carry, let’s spend a moment remembering those who carry the burden of a flag-draped coffin that has left them a single mom who has to give a thousand painful explanations to the never-ending questions from her confused toddler, or a grieving dad who finds it hard to leave the house for another Memorial Day cookout, or a sister who will never feel the affectionate embrace of her big brother.
Consider the cost of freedom. Whether you like how it was achieved or not, consider it. Consider the gaps it has left in families and acknowledge that while today may be filled with fun beach trips and beer coolers or lazy lake days — there is another side to living in a free country, and it’s found in neatly lined headstones and the quiet grief that pulses through thousands and thousands of American homes.
Land of the free because of the brave.
Somewhere in this nation, on the dawn of Memorial Day there is a dad sitting on a porch with two beers next to him. One beer will remain untouched as he reminisces about the young man who used to tease him about his balding head and toast to the damn Yankees.
Somewhere a young woman wakes up to a babbling toddler and whining infant. Tucking them into patriotic garb with star-spangled bows and ruffle-bottomed onesies, she pauses just long enough for a single tear to trace her cheek. He would have loved seeing them like this- unruly and covered in sticky Cheerios and uninhibited by the world. But he’s not here. And he never will be. He won’t dance with them on their wedding day or promise to protect them from the boogie man. He’s gone. And she desperately misses him.
Somewhere there is a mom staring out her kitchen window as she makes her morning coffee. She was so proud of her, IS so proud of her. She remembered the moment her sweet girl sat down next to her, only 3 short years ago and said, “Mom. I’ve decided to join the Marines.” She remembered the fear and the “What If’s” that flooded her heart that were equally matched by pride and amazement at the young woman she had become. So she bought the bumper stickers and stuck out her American flag and cheered her through boot camp. She sent her off with oven-baked cookies and extra pairs of underwear and she prayed. And she prayed and she prayed. This morning she sits down with a sigh and trembles with grief. Her husband puts his hand on her shoulder and together they quietly cry out in pain.
Every year this day rolls around and we as a nation have the opportunity to say “Thank you.” To toast with the father, to be an extra pair of hands for the young mom and share some home-baked cookies with the older couple. We don’t just show gratitude but deep and abiding respect for these families. We acknowledge that the burden we talk about today, is a reality that they carry with them in every waking moment. Remembrance, for us, is a long weekend. For them, it’s a long road of sleepless nights and painfully slow healing.
There’s nothing wrong with grilling out and enjoying the weather and taking some lakeside selfies today. Long weekends are a blessing in a lot of ways and provide great opportunities to connect with those we love.
There’s also nothing wrong with taking a moment of silence to remember the fallen. The flag-draped coffins, and the ones who followed them to the cemetery.
Yet however you choose to spend this day, don’t let it be marked by apathy or guilt. The men and women who never came home knew that they may never come home. It’s up to us to meet that bravery by living lives of intentionality. By treating our freedom as a blessing, not an entitlement. May we be privileged with the task of caring for our military families and telling them today, and every day, that we are with them and for them.
Happy Memorial Day, America!
Land of the free because of the brave.