I remember when I used to work in a corporate office. We would look forward to the long weekend and wish visitors a “Happy Memorial Day.” All my life, I thought of it as a day off to mark the start of summer. It took me a long time, longer than it should have, to realize what Memorial Day truly represented.
“Freedom makes a huge requirement of every human being. With freedom comes responsibility.”- Eleanor Roosevelt
I lost my father in October of 2020. He had been in a nursing home with dementia for several years, and I could only travel a few times to see him. It was challenging, being honest. I had a lot of trauma based on my grandmother’s Alzheimer’s diagnosis when I was a kid, so seeing my father in a similar way was difficult. We couldn’t have a funeral when he passed due to the pandemic. We put together an online memorial and waited. The following summer, his ashes were placed in a Columbarium Wall at the Great Lakes National Cemetery in Holly, Michigan. He had been a veteran stationed in Korea in the 1950s. He didn’t die in a war, and there are better days than Memorial Day to commemorate him. Visiting that military cemetery with the rows and roles of perfect white headstones did make me think a lot more about what it means to put your life on the line for your country.
“Heroism doesn’t always happen in a burst of glory. Sometimes small triumphs and large hearts change the course of history.”- Mary Roach
Many Americans have a complicated relationship with our country, myself included. I am frustrated by the politics of the day, the culture of white supremacy, and the direct challenges to the human rights of women and LGBTQ+ people. But those who have died in wars, just and unjust, gave their life to protecting an ideal that I think most of us still believe in and hope for in the future.
While we’re enjoying our cookouts and spending time with friends, family, and neighbors, spend Memorial Day reflecting on what it means and the lives lost so we can move forward as a nation. Let’s hope that the challenges our country is facing right now can be resolved with hard work and determination.
Have a thoughtful Memorial Day.
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