I just spent some time with my next door neighbor. She was still shaking as she recalled to me the story of the very large tree limb that fell during the middle-of-the-night storm, crashing through the roof of her home. The tree slammed into her daughter’s bedroom, missing the sleeping teenager by mere feet. The near loss of her loved one left everybody, including me, very shaken. As I think about the meaning of Memorial Day, I draw a couple of important reminders from this scary event.
First, I am reminded of the small boundary between those who have given their lives to us in service and the much larger group of us who have been the beneficiaries of their sacrifice. When I was a child, I lived in a small town in the Appalachian Mountains. I would go with my mother and father to decorate the graves of veterans who were buried in the local cemetery. It was a curious ritual to me as a child. The people beneath the gravesites were not “real” to me and they seemed like a strange group of folks so detached from my life. I, who was alive and self absorbed in the here and now, was so different from them.
Second, the near loss of my neighbor’s teenage daughter reminds me of the life she will grow up to have and of the adult she will become (a fine one too, knowing her Mama and Daddy!). The reality is that all of us were young once and grew up through the sacrifice and care of others. I don’t know of any other way to get from young to old, but with the sacrificial help and support of others who love us and care for us in tangible ways. We ALL depend upon those who have served and given of themselves for us as we merrily go about living our lives and chasing our personal dreams.
So on this Memorial Day, I am reminded that we owe a double debt of gratitude to those who have given their lives for us—in military service, as public safety officers, as firemen, foreign service officers or any of the other branches of public servants who have made the ultimate sacrifice to honor and protect us. We must remember that they are just like us, but chose or were chosen to give their lives for others. I am also reminded that all we have and all we have become as individuals and families is, to a great extent, due to those unknown, often unremembered, and sadly often unappreciated persons who served us in years gone by. For those persons, and for their families and friends who have shared their borne sacrifice, I say may God bless you all and grant the rest of us the good sense to recall more often than once a year the sacrifices you make.