Today, the first day of this long Memorial Day weekend, we drove past a cemetery. I saw an elderly man, aided by a cane as he walked across the uneven grassy field of tombstones. How long, do you suppose, has his still-tender heart ached for the one death has taken?
He glanced across the way and I followed the direction his head had turned. There a tent provided shade for a handful of people, perhaps lingering after saying their final farewells to one whose end of life they, too, regretted.
We were merely passing the graveyard, but I tried to tell my husband what I’d seen. I couldn’t.
I was touched to see dozens of small US flags fluttering beside numerous stones. I am grateful for the reasons for this long weekend.
I remembered the avenues of flags I photoed in another cemetery in Iowa – where more were lost per capita than in other communities on those dreadful days of WWII.
One of my greatest privileges was to accompany several who had served when their Memorial/Honor Flight took them to see their WWII Memorial in DC. Those heroes also paid quiet respect to the other memorials there, including the Korean and Viet Nam memorials.
As someone posted on Facebook, there are some going to the beach today because decades ago, men went to the beach for us. We’re almost to D-Day, a day few of us remember hearing about as it happened but we owe a debt of at least respect to those who climbed out of their boats and waded ashore.
We also owe our freedom’s debt to men and women who have courageously accepted their assignments to protect our homeland and to seek to make life better for others in lands where they’d been sent.
I, too, of course, think about loved ones I’ve lost and whose tombstones I wish I could visit. I know they are not there, but I would go out of respect to who they were while they influenced my life. I miss them often but I also know many of them gave me the assurance that our separation is only temporary. I grieved not as those who had no hope.
Jesus said, and this was restated at several of their memorial services, “I am the resurrection and the life and whosoever believeth in Me shall not perish but have everlasting life.”
It’s the kind of weekend when it’s good to pause and look backward with gratitude for lives that have enriched and protected ours. It’s also fitting that we live in the “now” with people whose lives matter to us, too. Those who went before loved us well, but not so that we’d paralyzed by grief and loss, but with the blessing that we go ahead and live worthwhile lives.
May our lives bless others, even if just for a passing moment, as the man who ambled across the cemetery blessed mine today. I hope he, too, is comforted by a confident assurance that he will be reunited with the loved one whose gravesite he sought today. And may that comfort from the Lord be yours, today, as well.