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.