Sunday, May 24, 2015

Why We Celebrate Memorial Day

Early spring is my favorite time of year.  Here in North America, the land comesMemorial Day Thank You back to life after a winter hiatus.  In our locale, we use the Memorial Day Holiday as a marker for the end of the school year, beginning of summer and as a safe date to plant your most delicate flowers and vegetables.

Memorial Day is much more than an excuse to have a BBQ and family fun day in our family however.  We remember our family members and others who served in the military in the protection of freedom and democracy.

Our children remember our family Memorial Day forays to numerous cemeteries in our area when we visited the graves of family members.  My wife and I used the cemetery visits to teach our children about their ancestral families.  We told them stories about each of their ancestors as we visited their respective graves.  We always had a basket of goodies with us during the visits.  If you ask our children about their memories of those visits, they’ll invariably include the memory of eating Hey Day and Fig Newton cookies and cans of their favorite sodas at the cemetery along with the ancestral stories.

To this day, their visits to each headstone immediately brings the stories about that ancestor to their minds, which is exactly what I had hoped would happen.   When I have the opportunity to visit cemeteries with our grandchildren, I repeat the snacks and stories activities with them.  It only took a couple of years before the young ones knew the stories as well as me.  They delight in telling the stories to their younger siblings when they visit the graves our our ancestors now..  They are doing exactly what I hoped would happen.  Fortunately, I’ve lived long enough to see it become a reality.

When I consider the changes in the world during the lifetime of my parents, I’m always astounded at the advancements of technology and the devolvement of society in general.  There have been similar changes during my lifetime.  What will our grandchildren experience during their lifetimes?  

Knowing that our grandchildren will experience tests that are very different than those that I’ve experienced in my life, our stories about our ancestors become even more important.  I’ve made sure to emphasize the difficulties and trials that our ancestors encountered and endured.  Their success in life will probably require them to remember the values and fortitude of their ancestors as they face their own unique conditions and trials in life.

The number of people who visit cemeteries has dropped a lot since my youth.  In that long ago day, the holiday was enjoyed as a major social event in addition to a day of remembrance.  As our family went from cemetery to cemetery, we encounter different groups of family members and friends that we didn’t see very regularly.  In fact, our only “in person” interaction with them was at the cemetery on Memorial Day.  The day was almost like a series of family reunions.

Facebook, Google+, Twitter and all of the other social sites didn’t exist in that day.  Memorial Day provided a venue for the social contacts.   Stories were told and photos were taken all under the cloud of the aroma of Iris’s, baby’s breath, peonies and the dozens of other varieties of flowers that covered the graves in the cemeteries.  The scents combined with the face to face interactions created lifelong memories.  To this day, I still picture the Memorial Day interactions in my mind when I smell iris’s.   

What are you doing on Memorial Day this year?  Will your activities involve family members living and dead?  Will you both celebrate and remember those people in your family and community who served our country so valiantly in the past, sometimes at the surrender of their own lives?   That’s what Memorial Day is all about.  It isn’t the excuse to party and purchase every sale item that stores flash before us in online ads and window covering banners.

If you haven’t created your own family Memorial Day traditions to celebrate the holiday as it was intended, it isn’t too late.  Do something that brings remembrance of your kindred dead and military brave to the mind of your families and yourselves.  

Memorial Day is a wonderful holiday, for all of the right reasons.  Let’s remember to both enjoy and celebrate it accordingly.

Posted 24 May 2015 by Lee R. Drew on Lineagekeeper’s Genealogy Blog