Memorial Day in the Time of COVID-19

May 22, 2020 8:27 am Published by
memorial day and covid 19

Photo by twinsfisch on Unsplash

A typical Memorial Day weekend in the U.S. represents a variety of things to different people:

  • A day off of work
  • The beginning of summer
  • Going to the lake
  • Having a barbeque with friends and family
  • The Indianapolis 500
  • Visiting family gravesites
  • Veterans parades and celebrations
  • Watching war movies

This year has already brought substantial changes in our daily lives and this weekend will be no exception. Sporting events and parades are cancelled. BBQs and travel, if they happen at all, will look markedly different.

I usually take time over the Memorial Day weekend to gather with my family and reflect on what the holiday means to each of them. We talk about those who are no longer with us, what we are memorializing and why.

Here are some questions we use as conversation starters:

  • What happens when you forget something that happened or someone who was important (or who did something important)?
  • Do you think it is valuable to us to remember people who have gone before us? Why?
  • If I wanted to remember someone or something that happened, what could I do to help me recall more about them?

What are we remembering?

  • Family members that we knew who are no longer with us.
  • Our distant relatives & forefathers we never knew.
  • People close to us who have died and we miss.
  • Military personnel who have died in fighting to protect our country’s freedom.

The answers and memories and meaning are unique to each of us. But taking time to remember and reflect is an important part of Memorial Day.

I am personally thankful I have a family heritage of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who lived their lives in a way that served as a model for me. I take time each Memorial Day to intentionally remember them and how they contributed to my life.

Additionally, this year, I am also going to reflect on the seasonal transition. Memorial Day usually marks the beginning of summer. If not the actual start to the summer solstice, it is usually the time when children are finished with school, the weather allows us to spend more time outside, and we begin making summer travel plans.

The uncertainty that began several months ago as states began issuing stay-at-home orders and our work and family life was upended is still with us. Many have begun the transition out of quarantine but no one can be sure how that will look and how long it might take. Many of us have also struggled to differentiate days and weeks as new routines and limited movement have created a sameness to our days. The long holiday weekend is good opportunity to reflect on transitions and, perhaps, renew our hope and optimism for positive changes in the coming months.

I also encourage each of you to find a way to connect with family and close friends. Even if your time together is virtual or in person but from 6 feet away, it is important to maintain our key relationships. Memorial Day weekend is a perfect time to reflect on how your family members, both those who have passed on and those who are still with us, have impacted your life and share your thoughts with each other.

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May 22, 2020 8:27 am


  • Mary E. Martin says:

    Thank you Dr. White! This is beautifully written and truly a reminder of what this holiday really means.

  • Fanny says:

    I’m no American and didn’t know about Memorial Day. Even though, I understand how important it can be to remember loved ones who are not with us anymore, spending time with loved ones who are still here and, I’d add, being grateful for such memories. Thank you for talking about those.

    • Paul White says:

      Fanny, We completely agree with you. The current circumstances around the world are a strong reminder that we should never miss an opportunity to cherish those who are still part of our lives as well as those who are no longer with us.

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