Memorial Day, 2009

Memorial Day used to mean a picnic. There is no family picnic this year. The family, once very large, has dwindled considerably, due to death of the old-timers and migration south of the young. When everyone was alive and living nearby, the Memorial Day picnic was a grand affair whose climax came when Uncle John, then in his fifties, shimmied up the impossibly tall tree in his backyard. Everyone cheered when he reached the top.

Uncle John was a Sea-Bee in World War II. Uncle Pat fought at Anzio and the Battle of the Bulge.  Both men are dead now. My father did defense work during World War II. My brother was in Vietnam.

I don’t know anyone who died in a war. I don’t know anyone who is serving in Iraq or Afghanistan, which is a good thing, but also a bad thing, since it underscores how few are carrying the burden of our current wars.

I don’t plan to go shopping today. I never understood how buying a sheet set on sale honored our soldiers who gave their lives. I guess eating hot dogs didn’t honor them either, but at least we were together, acknowledging the day as separate and different. When my mother was a girl, she and her siblings used to decorate the graves of the dead soldiers: Decoration Day, as it was called then.

Whatever you do today, I hope you can find a moment to think about soldiers, war, and death. Just for a moment. Perhaps if everyone did, we’d all work harder to achieve as much peace in the world as we possibly can.

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