Memorial Day commemorates the Americans who died while serving to protect our country…while serving to protect us. It’s a day we honor the lives of those that made the ultimate sacrifice.
And I don’t really get it.
I don’t get Memorial Day because I never had to see my dad deployed. I never had to kiss him goodbye at the airport, send him off to a country so foreign I’d only ever seen photos of it online. I never had to send my mom letters and care packages overseas because even though she was thousands of miles away, she still wanted to hear all the details about my soccer game, the new fish I got, Tuesday’s math test that she knew I had studied weeks for. I never had to hear her voice on the other end of the phone telling me what the weather was like over there, how she loved the Facebook pictures Jordan’s mom put up of my birthday party, how she loved me and missed me so much…how she’d see me soon. Always “soon.”
I don’t get Memorial Day because I have never sent a son or daughter or significant other off to war, never spent hours each day thinking about them, praying for them, wondering what they were doing at that moment, reassuring myself that they were ok and that they would be ok. I never had to desperately miss them each night as I went to bed.
I don’t get Memorial Day because I have never experienced the joy of reuniting with my loved ones after months apart, a joy I can only imagine is so pure because it is the culminating result of love, relief and gratitude. I have never made those “welcome home” posters, never carefully planned my outfit, never anxiously watched servicemen and women flood out from the plane with my heart pounding, waiting to make eye contact with the one I was looking for. I never had to do these things, so I don’t really get Memorial Day.
I don’t get Memorial Day because I never had to notice the changes in my loved ones once they were back from their deployment. The added experience in their eyes, the diminished innocence.
I don’t get Memorial Day because unless I purposely take the time to step back and think about the grave importance of the day, it only serves as a day that marks seasonal discounts at my favorite stores, the unofficial start of summer, grilled hamburgers and hot dogs for dinner, beer and potato salad.
In other words, unless we’re careful, Memorial Day becomes a day we forget to pay homage to those who bravely lost their lives for us, and instead go on enjoying the very gifts of liberty and freedom they paid the ultimate price to afford us.
I don’t get Memorial Day because I don’t know what it would feel like to have lost someone I loved on the battlefield. I also don’t know what it would feel like to sit at a Memorial Day Parade today, honoring those who died such brave deaths while knowing it could be someone I love very soon.
I don’t get Memorial Day and that’s why it should so deeply affect me. Because I don’t “get” Memorial Day personally, I must realize I should be the one to step back, honor more, pause to remember longer, seek to understand more deeply.
Memorial Day reminds us of something we must never forget: freedom is not free. If you – like me – have not paid for that freedom yourself, Pause. Remember. Honor.
Seek to understand the enormity of the gift you’ve been given, and let that feeling humble you.