Monday, May 27, 2024

Memorial Day 2024

Today is Memorial Day, and through the years, I've come to realize how many different things this holiday can mean to people.  I've met people who won't celebrate it because of its roots in memorializing the Civil War Union dead.  My dad was an Air Force officer in the Reserves until he retired, so Memorial Day was personal for him.  I don't think I know anyone who was killed while on active duty, but I do want to honor those who died.  Some people I've known seem to have no inkling that the holiday has anything to do with soldiers at all--for them, it's about getting a good deal on a holiday sale or opening up the vacation home or having a cook out.

I remember feeling desperate for Memorial Day, for a day off, but during my days of working as an administrator, I was always desperate for a day off, a day off that didn't require me to use up any of my paltry allotment of vacation time.  For the past several years, Memorial Day as a three day week-end was not top of my mind.

I also know that many people don't get to have time off.  All of our grocery stores are open today, for example.  When I taught in community colleges in South Carolina, we didn't have Memorial Day off.  Our nursing students needed every scrap of time in the summer, so that holiday had to be sacrificed so that we stayed in compliance.  Or maybe it was because of the Civil War; I got different explanations. In past years, I've used the day off to catch up on grading for my online classes.  This year, my summer classes don't start for a month, so I'm not teaching at all this holiday. 

This year, I'm thinking about past years, when war seemed far away.  Could we really be at a place where peace was the norm?

This year, that doesn't seem to be the case.  This year, I'm hoping for containment of threats, for dictators to be defeated.  When I say that, I'm thinking of Putin.  This year, of course, the war in the Middle East is the one that most people are contemplating, if they are contemplating war at all.  This year, I am willing to admit how much I do not know, while trying not to dread what may be coming in the next year or two.

But let me circle back to the intent of this holiday.  On this day which has become for so many of us just an excuse to have a barbecue, let us pause to reflect and remember. If we're safe right now, let us say a prayer of gratitude. Let us remember that we've still got lots of military people serving in dangerous places.

Let us remember how often the world zooms into war. Let us pray to be preserved from those horrors.

Here's a prayer I wrote for Memorial Day:

God of comfort, on this Memorial Day, we remember those souls whom we have lost to war. We pray for those who mourn. We pray for military members who have died and been forgotten. We pray for all those sites where human blood has soaked the soil. God of Peace, on this Memorial Day, please renew in us the determination to be peacemakers. On this Memorial Day, we offer a prayer of hope that military people across the world will find themselves with no warmaking jobs to do. We offer our pleading prayers that you would plant in our leaders the seeds that will sprout into saplings of peace.

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