Monday, May 27, 2013

Memorial Day - Is one death more important than another?

What does Memorial Day mean to you?

Traditionally, it is a day to honor those who have lost their lives in service to our country.  There are events held locally and nationally to honor the dead.  Their cemetery spots are decorated with flags and markers noting the branch of the service in which they served.  Families tidy up their resting place.  Ceremonies are held.  Parades go through the streets and citizens wave flags.  Children have the opportunity to learn about our country, our freedom, and the path some brave men and women choose to defend our freedom.  They have an opportunity to learn about war and peace and death and heroes.

I am grateful, as I am sure all of you are, for all those who serve and have served our country.  It takes a very special person to do so, and I pause today, like many, to honor, remember and thank them.  If you are a veteran or an active service member, I thank you.

I also think this is a day where we should be asking ourselves where our priorities are as a country.  Particularly in how we treat and care for the members of our military and their families.  Why is it professional sports players and CEO's make waaaaay more money?  Why is it we can't seem to provide the financial, medical and mental health assistance these veterans and their families need when they are in or return from active duty in a violent region of the world?   What a great day to start and be persistent on fixing what is wrong with the system so we can better care for and truly honor our veterans by treating them with the respect and care they deserve while alive, not just when they are gone.  That is far more valuable than one day of parades and ceremonies.

Every year I ponder, why just one day?  While I understand the concept of special days to honor people and things, why are we not celebrating the lives of ALL those who have died, regardless of how, on this day and every day?  Why don't we have a day dedicated to celebrating our loved ones who have died, period?  As a community, not just as a family. What makes the lives of those who serve in the military any more valuable than someone who works at the local market?  Everyone serves someone else in some capacity. Everyone has a family.  Everyone loves someone else.  Every loss is painful, deep and profound to someone, somewhere.

Mexico has the day of the dead on November 1st.  It's a National holiday.  It also coincides with All Souls Day.  They *get* how important it is to celebrate everyone who has died.  As a country and as a collective community, they share a common bond.  Everyone knows someone who has died.  Every life deserves to be honored.  Every death deserves to be honored and that person remembered.  Every.  Single.  Day.

Some people get upset when others use Memorial Day as their personal day of the dead.  When they focus as much, or perhaps more, on their loved ones who have passed than the veterans who have.  I know today is one of my Meggie days.  Her special place is prettied up with flowers and decorations.  I will visit it.  She will be on my mind, as she is every day, but a bit more so today.  It brings me solace to know she lies between two veterans.  I know they protect her, even though she never met them.  I will pause at their special places today and say a silent prayer for their families.

I will never forget one Memorial Day a few years ago.  My oldest son was marching in the parade with the cub scouts.  My youngest was still very young.  It was probably two years after Meg died.  They start the parade at the cemetery where Meggie now 'resides'.  One of my youngest pre-school friends was there.  He took her to Meggie's place and 'introduced' her.  They walked around together.  He told her about Meggie.  They played with her trinkets.  Many of the other children were running around the cemetery and periodically pausing to look at the stones and the flags.  Parents freaked out.  Telling them to stop.  Why?  I don't think it's disrespectful at all.  They are children.  They are exploring.  Reading the head stones.  Asking questions.  Learning about how we honor our dead.  I've said a gazillion times before, we are horrible in our society about dealing with death.  Kids can teach us a lot.  Let them lead us.

I sure as hell hope when I'm long gone, someone stops by my stone someday, years later, who never knew me, and can tell by the words and the decor who I was and why I was important to somebody.  That's what Memorial Day is really about.  Remembering.  Honoring lives.  Honoring love.

May the love of those you have lost surround you today and always.  Take a moment to remember them.  Close your eyes.  See their face.  Hear their voice.  Feel their embrace.  Feel the love.  Give it back to them.  Tell them you miss them, remember them and love them.  Know they feel the same for you.

Never forget.

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