Photo by Jason John Paul Haskins
I drove through the cemetery last night at dusk to take flowers to the graves of deceased relatives for the first time in my life for Memorial Day and as I saw the balloons and flowers and the many other families doing the same I understood Memorial Day in my heart for the first time in my life.
Before yesterday I had understood in my head the purpose of Memorial Day – to honor those who have gone before, with a special emphasis on members of the armed forces who have sacrificed to preserve our liberty – but despite all the Memorial Day celebrations I’ve attended over the years it was all abstracted from my reality. I wrote about Memorial Day 6 years ago and my lack of connection to the holiday was painfully obvious when I reviewed that post today.
I realized as I walked through the cemetery why I had grown up without that experience. As far as I can recall I only ever met one of my great grandparents and I was still fairly young when she died so I didn’t have much of a personal connection. Combine that with the fact that she wasn’t buried close to where I lived and we didn’t have cause to visit cemeteries during my growing up years because I was married with a young family before I had a grandparent die whom I had actually known. In the years since that first meaningful death I’ve visited her grave a few times but never on Memorial Day weekend before.
I don’t know how much of my new-found understanding yesterday was due to the experience of visiting the cemetery and how much was due to increased emotional maturity but whatever amount of it was due to the experience of visiting the cemetery will be passed on to my children because I will now be like so many others who use that time to reflect on past connections and remember their family heritage.