Personal Losses Make Memorial Day More Poignant

May 24, 2017 6:38 pm Published by

Memorial Day in the U.S. is a holiday that seems to be slipping in its meaningfulness to many in our country.  As the distance in time grows from recent military conflicts, and even further from the major wars of the past, the desire to pay honor to those who fought to protect our freedoms wanes.  This is a normal process of life – past losses and pain fade as time goes on.

But a common life event brings the significance of Memorial Day back into focus quickly.  That event, the death of someone close, was an experience I had multiple times this year – loss of a parent, an aunt, my brother’s wife, and a friend who worked for me.

Many Americans will celebrate Memorial Day in typical ways:

  • Going to the lake
  • Camping
  • Having a barbeque with friends and family
  • Doing some fix-up project around the house
  • Watching the Indianapolis 500
  • Participating in or attending a parade
  • Watching movies (possibly old war films)

But I anticipate being a bit more pensive and reflective, visiting the cemetery where my parents, grandparents, aunts & uncles, nephew, sister-in-law, and other family members bodies have been laid to rest.  To some, this may seem morbid; but for me, visiting the cemetery on Memorial Day weekend has many levels of meaning and feeling:

*Fond memories, both recent and distant, of my family members.

*Thankfulness for the goodness they brought into my life.

*Reflections on what the lives were like of those who preceded me.

*Considering how I am living my life and determining if that is how I want to continue.

While I don’t believe everyone should put “fun” on pause during their Memorial Day activities, I do think an occasional intentional conversation about what Memorial Day means for you, your friends, or others in your family can be thought-provoking.  Given that the root of Memorial Day is “memory,” here are some questions to think about, and maybe use as conversation starters:

  • What is the opposite of remembering?  [Forgetting? Ignoring?]
  • Do you think it is valuable to us to remember people who have gone before us?  Why?
  • What impact may forgetting have on us?
  • What happens when you forget something that happened or someone who was important (or did something important)?
  • If we want to remember someone or something that happened, what could we do to help us recall more about them?

To prevent these discussions from being purely theoretical and disconnected from daily life, connect the questions to specific people.  I will be thinking about and talking with my family about my mom – what I miss about her being gone, fond memories over different periods of life, and the many ways she shaped our lives.  The result?  A mixture of gratefulness, sadness, and peace, culminating with an inner smile.

I trust you will have an enjoyable and meaningful Memorial Day.






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May 24, 2017 6:38 pm

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