Our family marks Memorial Day by beginning with a visit to one of two local cemeteries. We stroll along the walks, “looking for soldiers,” as we remind the younger ones what US service stones look like. Since we have done this for years, we notice new graves and how familiar ones look that year (“Someone brought flowers for Sgt. Boyle,” or “Let’s clean up this sailor’s stone; no one’s been here.”). Both cemeteries have been carved out of the Alaskan forest so there are plenty of wild roses, dog woods, and yarrow flowers to tie into bouquets for neglected markers. Our mood is somewhere between comfortable and serious as we visit all the servicemen and women, reading their names aloud and decorating the lonely ones.
Of course, there are many other graves that we notice and wonder about: elaborately decorated boulders with someone’s story and photo etched into the stone; simple slabs with just a name and dates; spousal plots half printed and half empty ~ waiting; and the terribly tiny ones. I always cry in the reminder of searing pain, in the gratefulness of my family all together, in the acknowledgment that this is part of life, and in the great pride of being an American.
We complete our visit by tucking ourselves into a corner for prayer and a picnic among our fallen brothers and sisters. We remind the kids of what the day is a memorial for; we pray for their souls; we thank them for their service; we pray for their sad families; we thank God to be living in America. Our day at home ends with some night-time reading of a pertinent storybook (They Were Strong and Good, The Blue and the Gray, Pearl Harbor-ready to read are some on our children’s bookshelf) and a war film of Ken’s choosing for the older members.
Today is Memorial Day, my Sistas. May it be happy; may it be prayerful; may it be honorable.