For the Lord loves his people,
and he adorns the lowly with victory.
Our Memorial Day observances traditionally recount the sacrifice made by those who gave their lives in service to this country. Whether they were drafted into service or they enlisted by choice, each one fulfilled an obligation which he or she accepted to the point of death. Though some may have wrestled with doubt, wondering if anything was worth dying for, we know the final outcome. This weekend, tens of thousands of flags decorate their graves. These flags herald those who completed, as best they could, what they set out to do.
Our Memorial Day remembrances have grown to include all of those who have passed from this life to the next. Though they may not have donned military uniforms to endure the trials of battle, those whom we mourn assumed a role of great importance to us. Whether our mother or father, our husband or wife, our child, our relative or our friend, those whom we mourn did something similar to that which our military personnel did. They responded to what they saw as their roles in this life, and they fulfilled those roles as best they could. At times, our loved ones achieved great success and their impacts upon our lives were sources of great joy or growth or satisfaction. At times, they failed miserably, and their impacts upon us were precisely the opposite. Perhaps they walked away for a while from a father, a mother, a spouse, a child or a friend. Sometimes, we civilians can be tempted to be AWOL from a commitment that seems to require too much. In the end, we mourn our loved ones, sometimes because of their humanity and sometimes in spite of it.
There is something very Christ-like about the way we remember those who have passed. Often, after we bid them our final farewells, our memories become less focused upon their failures. When we reminisce, we tend to recall the happy or amusing or glorious times we shared. In our family, my father died when most of us were very young. Within a year of his death, the man had become a saint in our collective consciousness. Years later, when our mother married a wonderful, but very different man, I marveled at his bravery. Following in my father’s footsteps was an impossible task. Yet, upon my step-dad’s death many years later, the same phenomenon occurred. A second father-turned-saint occupied our memories. Need I tell you that my mother-turned-saint resides above in all of her glory as well?
Memorial Day offers us the opportunity to celebrate Easter joy once again in the name of those who know that joy firsthand. There is something holy to be found as we relish our relationships with those among us and with those we mourn. The selective memories that bestow sainthood upon our very human loved ones reflect the selective vision of God. Our visions of eternal life reveal something sacred that swells our hearts with joy. Truly, the joy our loved ones experience awaits us all. Easter joy will be realized in the welcoming eyes of God who will greet each of us upon our arrival home.
Today, as we remember our military personnel and all of the loved ones who have lived their lives for us, let us smile between the tears. There is good reason to rejoice for them and for ourselves!
Thank you, God, for the promise of heaven and for the loved ones with whom we will share it!
©2014 Mary Penich – All Rights Reserved