Today I will celebrate Memorial Day in an unusual way: I will be with my quilting group. I plan to experiment with stitching on photographs--or on copies of photographs.
In some ways, this seems like a perfect way to commemorate; after all, for most of human history, during times of war, women have stayed home, stitching and keeping each other company.
I do miss being able to go to a national monument, listening to one of the service bands perform. Or maybe I'd rather be in a contemplative spot, saying a thank you. Or maybe something more festive. I miss the small town parades; I know that my college town of Newberry, South Carolina will be celebrating in ways that remind me of the 1950's. Now, I no longer know the stories of my neighbors. I don't know whose great great grandfather/uncle served in which ways.
I heard about a colleague who plans to go to a local cemetery and fix the flags that have fallen over. I like that way to celebrate too. I remember the first time I saw the World War I graveyards in France, vast acres of white markers. It was a sobering reminder of the cost of war.
Our school has a number of veterans, and their presence, too, is a stark reminder of the cost of war, as many of them have returned home with disabilities. Last week I walked down the stairs behind one of them. I watched him make his way very carefully, step by step, his cane useless on the stairs. As I walked to the parking garage, I reflected how lucky I am to be able to move my legs with very little thought or effort.
It is impossible not to realize the cost of war. There's the money, of course, and the death of soldiers. We may forget the other costs: the families of military members, the injured veterans, the civilians damaged in so many ways, peace of all kinds shattered.
So, on this day which has become for so many of us just an excuse to have a barbecue or open up the beach house, let us pause to reflect and remember. If we're safe right now, let us spend a moment in gratitude. Let us remember that we've still got lots of military people serving in dangerous places. We've got a world lumbering towards the abyss. Let us recommit ourselves towards actions that move our common trajectory towards peace.
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