I have such fond memories of Memorial Day when I was a child.
It was always a family day when the extended family would get together for a peaceful quiet day of being together and “remembering.” It wasn’t a big whoop-de-do day like the Fourth of July with hoopla, drums and fireworks.
It was always a quiet day to remember all who had gone before us and to show our gratitude for everything those who had gone before had given us including our lives.
We would start the day by going to the cemetery where our “loved ones” were buried, cleaning up the graves (and the cemetery in general, if necessary) either planting flowers (peonies were a favorite) or putting flowers on the graves (plastic flowers were not even a consideration – it would not have been respectful – expedient maybe – AND this day was not about expediency. This day was about remembering and gratitude.)
After all the “work” was done and we were happily sweaty and a bit tired, we would, as a bunch, retire to the river where everyone took a swim – except Grandpa – he started the ice cream in his hand-cranked, five gallon ice cream maker. We played, hunted for crawdads, lounged in the shade and told stories about those who had gone before – usually funny stories about quirks, mistakes, and funny incidents – – always lovingly told.
Then, we would have our lunch with Grandpa’s homemade fresh peach custard ice cream crowning the day.
I can remember thinking “How could we ever do Memorial Day without Grandpa’s homemade fresh peach custard ice cream,” knowing that someday he would be the one we “remembered” and told funny stories about and honored, and also knowing that someday I would be the one making the fresh peach custard ice cream and funny stories would be told about me.
There was a comfort and a quietness in Memorial Day that was soothing.
Veterans were mentioned along with those who had gone before and they were no more important nor no less important than all the others. They were another molecule in the great stream of humanity and all creation in which we all were a part.
We all “belonged.”
I was glad that the Veterans had their own day in November and I was also glad that there was a special day to honor our ancestors – the known and the unknown.
Today, I hardly recognize Memorial Day. It has become a political, militaristic day, celebrating war with lots of hoopla, stirring up a furor to support wars.
I very much respect and honor those who have fought “for our country” even if I believe that some of those wars were misguided. However misguided they may have been, the young men, women and even civilians believed in something and I admire them for that.
What I do not understand or admire are the frenzied parades, and groups vying to outdo one another to honor and extol those who died in wars while, at the same time, ignoring those who went before who lived in peace and sought to live in peace with themselves and others while living ordinary lives and still are the reason that we are here at all today.
I do not seek to forget the wars – I seek to learn from them as I do my ancestors. AND, I have never learned as much from frenzy, hype and politics as I have from quiet respect and gratitude.