This weekend most Americans will celebrate a three-day weekend. Memorial Day began as “Decoration Day” toward the end of the Civil War. People would decorate the graves of both Union and Confederate fallen soldiers. It began being celebrated across the country during WWI. It was not until 1971 that Memorial Day became a holiday. My grandparents always referred to it as Decoration Day. This was the designation it went by originally. We would gather the flowers from our yard. The flowers would then be placed in a tomato juice or Hi-C can. My job was to soak and clean the cans and peel off the labels, until all that was left was the shiny aluminum can which then became the flower vases/containers. I put a little water in the bottom of the can and then placed the peonies and other spring flowers in the containers and set and them in a cardboard box. They would be secured safely in the back seat and some extra flowers in wet newspaper were placed in the trunk in case we did not have enough flowers in the containers. My responsibility was to make sure that our homemade grave decorations made it to our destination in Paulding County Ohio. Only a few of our family members had served in the military, and their graves would be ‘decorated’ first. Then I would put the remaining flowers by the headstones of the rest of our family members graves scattered throughout the two to three cemeteries we would visit on that day.
As a child I remember asking my grandparents, ‘why do we go to all of this bother?’ Why do we decorate graves on this weekend in May? The answer came solemnly and quickly. ‘We must remember the sacrifice of those who have gone on before’. The flowers are our way of saying ‘Thank you’. Thank you for our freedom and our safety. Thank you for your service. Standing in a cemetery in northwest Ohio I learned, that it would be an awful thing if people became so busy and self-absorbed that they did not take time out to say thank you.
This is not necessarily a call to do anything. It is more of an observation: If we fail to remember what those who have come before us have done, we may develop the idea of our entitlement to the rights and privileges we enjoy. Most everything we enjoy today cost someone who came before us something. For some in the military it cost their lives. For parents, grandparents, and great grandparents, it caused them to commit themselves to work and provide for their families and give us the best they could afford. None of us arrived in this world in a vacuum. Today we stand on the shoulders of many who paid the price so that we can enjoy the bounties of life. Sometime over this weekend stop and offer a prayer of gratitude and thanksgiving for the blessings you have, and teach this lesson to someone as well! As a Christian, I thank God for the gift of His Son Jesus, and for Christ’s sacrifice and death that I might be set free through the power of the Resurrection.