"Blessed are the dead..."
Memorial Day is a federal holiday in the U.S. where we remember the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces, observed every year on the last Monday of May.
The reactions to Memorial Day across the nation are certainly diverse.
- I know more than a few religious people who refuse to participate in the holiday altogether because they feel that to acknowledge it is to approve of war (both past and present).
- I know many friends and family members who grieve the loss of a loved one that never came home from the battlefield.
- Still, for many others that I know they're just excited to get out their grills and kegs to enjoy a day of rest with family.
As a person of faith, I must say I find myself in all three of these categories to some degree, and I approach the holiday feeling very conflicted.
- Do I like war? No. I don't ever want to see another war in my lifetime, but I know that I probably will.
- Do I miss family and friends who never came back home? Yes.
- Do I enjoy a good family barbecue? You bet.
In my conflicted state of mind on this holiday I'm usually the guy sitting at a safe, contemplative distance from the celebrations at the family barbecue eating my chicken or steak, sipping a beer, and wiping my mouth with an American-flag-styled-napkin, quietly pondering all that this holiday means for so many.
Each year I find myself coming to the same conclusion amidst the paradox of protest and celebration, joy and sorrow, and loss and love. I do my best to remember the holiday for what it really is.
Memorial Day is: "a federal holiday where we remember the people who died while serving in the country's armed forces."
And this always brings my conflict into order. It's not a holiday to sit and bicker about war. It's not a holiday where the backyard grill takes center stage. It's a holiday to remember people.
And in doing this, we are responding to Memorial Day faithfully. We remember the sacredness of human life. Life that was given. Life that was taken. Life that goes on.
If you are conflicted about how to feel on Memorial Day every year like I am, it's my hope that these words will ease some of your conflict. I also hope these words will allow you to give yourself some space to know that it is okay to feel conflicted this weekend with a hamburger in your hand and an aching in your heart.
Whatever your context, "remember to remember" people this holiday weekend. By doing this, we honor those who are no longer with us, and also display an example of faith, hope, and love to those who remain.