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Thursday, May 23, 2013

A Memorial Day Service In the Garden






Surveying the littered ground of the remnants of Moore, Oklahoma, in the aftermath of Mother Nature's might and fury, the magnitude of the devastation lies in the details of loss. The pieces of wreckage and debris cast aside with no regard to wealth or social standing, age or ethnicity. The equal opportunity destruction of such width and breadth, a force so far beyond anyone's control, that to be spared is equally inexplicable. How difficult to feel blessed when across a street a home so similar to your own is now a pile of sticks and stone.

Like so many others a safe distance away, I watch the survivors return to sift through the debris for what can be saved, knowing full well that the hands they hold as they tiptoe through the ruins are their true treasure. How many of them longing only for the family photos, the familial souvenirs of love over time.

How many times do we see this in the remembrance of loss. Flowers surely. Bouquets wrapped in plastic gently placed, perhaps with a card or a note of farewell. A photo of a loved one. A candle. Tiny treasures selected with love to get right to the heart of the matter.

I remember you. 

Your life mattered.

I miss you though I may not have know you well. 

Years ago, on a drive between Santa Fe and Taos in New Mexico, we stumbled upon a tiny church set back from the road. A deeply weathered adobe structure, humbly hidden in a dusty grove. Inside, a dirt floor with a foot worn path leading to a dark corner lit only by candlelight.

Every wall, virtually each inch of space decorated. Notes, pictures, ribbons, tokens. plastic flowers, dried bouquets, pots of herbs, here, there and everywhere. Decorations and declarations of faith and love and hope.  There was a deep sadness and an uneasy pall over those of us standing in the damp quiet of the hidden cove. A desire to get away, to leave the loss. To shrug off the sadness. What were these visitors expecting? What were they offering? Why do they come day after day?

Why do we remember?

Who do we remember?

What is a Memorial for?

When a friend lost her son, I remember her telling me that what she missed dearly was hearing her child's name. The stories of his life. The memory of his smile. His way with words. His love of life and the joy and mischief in the twinkle of his eyes.

To not say his name was to lose him forever.

On this Memorial Day, decorations dot the cemetery lawns of the soldiers who died in service to this their country. For some, their names etched in tombstones or engraved on a granite wall. Others remain nameless, their resting place in the garden, marked by a small white cross. Some lie here beneath the soil of home. Others entombed on the shores across the sea or resting amid the shifting sands of the ocean floor.

It is but a simple gesture to take the time to remember.

You do not need a name or a family photo, because you are related.  The service men and women who died, regardless of your point of view, kept us all safe, made us all think, to believe, to hope and to rebuild.

Take a moment to be humble. 

To be grateful. 

To say thank you. 

To remember. 

To keep them forever alive... 

in the hearts of the families who grieve...

and in the heart of a grateful national family...

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