When the alarm clock rudely interrupted my sleep so I could get ready for work, I looked forward to a three-day weekend. Nowadays the only rude thing waking me up is a cat or a telemarketer. Occasionally a husband if I’ve told him to make sure I’m up so we can go out and about, but he’s not rude. Probably because he’s smart enough to know I’d slap him. To us, the three-day weekend is just another day, because we now have seven-day weekends. And in case you’re wondering, yes, retirement is wonderful. You can do what you want when you want, and don’t study a calendar to find out when the next holiday will occur.
Besides the “no alarm clock” life, there’s another advantage to being retired. Holidays start to mean more, because you can focus on them and not on the fact you have an extra day to sleep or do laundry. Memorial Day is Monday. I appreciate holidays like Memorial Day or Labor Day because I don’t have to buy a present, cook a special dinner, or send greeting cards. For Memorial Day, what kind of a present would you get someone anyway? They already received a priceless one in the form of a life given in service to their country.
I’m not big on visiting loved ones whose address is now a cemetery. They’re not there, so I just don’t see the point. I do like to wander around cemeteries, and we have some very old ones in Texas. The history is fascinating. I’ve seen more than one gravesite of someone who died during the Civil War, and even prior to that. It’s hard to look at a grave that old and not wonder what their life was like.
If you’ve never visited one of the national cemeteries, you should do so. I went to Arlington when I was in Washington, D.C. on business. While we were there, they had a burial with a 21-gun salute, caisson, the whole shebang. It was so moving. We stood on a hill and stretching before us were row upon row of identical headstones that seemed to go on forever. No way can you see that and not be thankful for their sacrifice.
We also visited the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier. Since 1937, a soldier marches back and forth in front of that tomb, keeping careful watch over the deceased. They take 21 steps, turn and look at the tomb for 21 seconds, turn to face back down the mat for 21 seconds, take 21 steps back, and repeat 24/7/365. The pattern emulates a 21-gun salute. They started guarding it because tourists were using the tomb for picnics, theoretically because of the view, which would make sense considering it’s on a hill. D.C. is in the background, and it’s a pretty spectacular vista. The words “Here rests in honored glory an American soldier known but to God” are inscribed on the back of the tomb. In actuality, there is more than one soldier buried there, and they identified the body of the Vietnam soldier, so his family moved his remains.
Bruce is buried at Ft. Sam National Cemetery. I went out there a few times after he died, and every time I went, it seemed they had added in another row. I’ve been to more than one burial out there and it’s impossible to not be moved by the ceremony. The casket is draped in an American flag and at the conclusion, it is carefully and formally folded and given to the widow/er or parent. When they gave me Bruce’s flag, I gave it to his sister. She was like a mother to him and it seemed more appropriate than me keeping it.
So, what is Memorial Day? It’s so much more than the unofficial start of summer and backyard barbeques. It’s a time for remembering all who have sacrificed so much for us and our freedoms. In today’s world, I think some of us take all that for granted, but we shouldn’t. And the absolute worst thing we can do? Go shopping, have a cookout, clean the toilet, sleep in late, or do a hundred other mundane things without stopping to think about what’s really important. On Memorial Day, stop the grilling and say a prayer of thanks for those who made the ultimate sacrifice. At 3:00 p.m. local time, you can join in the national moment of remembrance.
Feel free to wear a poppy if you choose. Another tradition. Started because of a poem written by Lieutenant Colonel John Mccrae, a World War 1 brigade surgeon, when he saw the red flowers growing among the carnage on the battlefield. In case you’ve never read it, I’ve put it below. Have a great Memorial Day and remember what it’s all about.
In Flanders Fields
In Flanders fields the poppies blow
Between the crosses, row on row,
That mark our place; and in the sky
The larks, still bravely singing, fly
Scarce heard amid the guns below.
We are the Dead. Short days ago
We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,
Loved and were loved, and now we lie,
In Flanders fields.
Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
The torch; be yours to hold it high.
If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep, though poppies grow
In Flanders fields.