Today, as you all know, is Memorial Day. On this day we’ve got parades, a few firecrackers, picnics, cookouts, races, sales, festivals, road closures, concerts, motorcycle rides, family reunions, ball games, and even some memorial services. These are just to name a few.
The real reason for Memorial Day, of course, is to commemorate those brave men and women who died in defense of our nation. It’s a federal holiday, so most everyone is off work and celebrate it one way or another (whether they recognize the real reason for it or not).
I remember growing up in a time when lots of people referred to it as Decoration Day. That was its original name, and it was tough to let it go. The big tradition was to decorate the graves of the fallen. This practice evolved into tending the graves of all your relatives. It often resulted in a swing by several local cemeteries to be sure that all the deceased kinfolks had flowers or a flag by their tombstones.
Things have changed over the years, but the meaning still holds. I suspect now fewer and fewer folks actually head to a burial ground on this day. Today, we do it through social media by the posting of a picture and a saying.
Because our society is so mobile, excursions to the family plots are far down our list. There are too many other destination spots available to do that. Consequently, we settle for posting our photographs, artwork, and maxims on social media sites. In a way, that’s rather sad. I miss the old days, but I must say, I embrace much of the new as well.
“I’m stirred by the reproductions…”
Some of the creative pix we see these days on sites like Instagram, Facebook, and Linked-In are rather amazing. A lot of the axioms are just as inspired and poignant. If I can’t get to my Dad’s gravesite, at least I can do it in spirit as I’m stirred by the reproductions I see online.
If you’re in the same boat as I, jump on your computer for a couple moments. Pull up the images and iconic mottos. There are some good ones and some that will burn into your psyche. Here are a few I just ran across:
“Memorial Day: Celebrate, Honor, Remember.” “All gave some… Some gave all.” “Land of the Free because of the Brave.” “They hover as a cloud of witnesses above this Nation.” “To those who courageously gave their lives… And those who bravely fight today.” And then there is the simple but powerful, “We will not forget.”
For me, today will revolve around weddings. I will be performing one in a few short hours and will then be meeting with another couple who want me to do the same for them. It’s not my typical Memorial Day, but at least I’ll be in joyful service to someone.
So for now, I look at the pictures and read the words…and I remember…
[Dave Zuchelli is a graduate of Pittsburgh Theological Seminary and is currently the pastor of Smith Chapel, in Great Falls, VA.]