When I was growing up, Memorial weekend usually involved a trip out to the cemetery to mark the occasion of “Decoration Day” with the decorating of family members’ graves. My Granny was the one who insisted we try and keep this observation. She was a family historian and the only surviving child who lived near the county where most of her family was buried. I probably complained that while my friends were headed to the lake or were sleeping in, we were headed out to a lonely country cemetery to visit the graves of relatives I had never met, followed by an annual reunion of more family members whom I had never met. It didn’t take many years though before I realized that I was the most blessed of all for having these special weekends with my Granny.
Decoration Day began when mourning families of the took flowers to the graves of the Civil War fallen. In 1868, Major General John A. Logan declared that Decoration Day should be observed on May 30, presumably a date chosen when spring flowers all over the United States would be blooming. “We should guard their graves with sacred vigilance….Let pleasant paths invite the coming and going of reverent visitors and fond mourners. Let no neglect, no ravages of time, testify to the present or to the coming generations that we have forgotten as a people the cost of a free and undivided republic. (www.va.gov) After World War I, the observance was changed to honor those from all wars. Finally in 1971, “Memorial Day” was declared by Congress to be a national holiday and moved to the last Monday of May. In 2000, the National Moment of Remembrance was added so we could bring back remembrance to Memorial Day.
I am a little unsure when the tradition of decorating all family member’s graves began, or if others even do that besides Kansas natives. What I do know is that it meant much to my grandmother and to many others I know who keep this tradition. In recent years I sometimes wonder why we do this, because as a follower of Christ, I don’t believe that these graves are the final resting place of my loved ones. However, as someone who has lost people close to me, I know for some people, they need to be at the grave of their loved one to grieve and to heal and that keeping the grave decorated is a source of comfort and solace and remembrance. It is a validation of their life and their existence. It is also fairly scriptural. In the Old Testament, the graves of loved ones were marked and God commanded his people to put stones up as a marker and remembrance of his deliverance at the sights of great battles. Certainly, when we mark the graves of lost veterans, we are remembering their deliverance of our freedoms.
Here are five other things I think about when I am out at the cemetery:
- The sacrifices made by my ancestors.
- Heartaches and loss are universal and timeless.
- Everyday is a gift–not to be wasted. We do not the hour when our life will end.
- Family is a blessing…even when we have family members who are a mess.
- I do not need to fear the cemetery, the battle over death was won over 2,000 years when my Savior, Jesus Christ overcame death and gave me the choice of where I spend eternity.
So as this Memorial Day weekend comes to an end, I am little sad. I didn’t make to Kansas this year to visit any graves. We even had a new one to visit this year, my mother-in-law (read more about her here…http://www.thewishedfor.com/a-mother-in-law-as-god-intended/) I also didn’t get my kids out to a formal observance honoring those who gave the ultimate sacrifice for me. I did however, spend time this weekend with family and friends and I spent time praising THE ONE who over came death for me. I hope you had a wonderful weekend and don’t forget to thank a veteran or their family for their sacrifice.
Let me know how you observe Memorial Day. I would love to hear of your traditions.