Sunday, May 25, 2008

Memorial Day

photo: American Merchant Mariner's Memorial, New York City

They stood up this morning. Many stood slowly and with hands gripping pews. But one by one, they stood. The soldiers among us. Our clapping lasted so long that some began to sit down before we stopped. Heroes uncomfortable with our attention. I think, had I let myself, I would have just sat there and bawled.

Later, as I explained the poem below (Mrs. Holub made us memorize it in 1978) to our 14-year old daughter, I received an unexpected gift.

"Mom, I know it sounds corny, but when those men stood up in church this morning I about started crying. I mean, I see those men every single week and I have wondered 'what makes this one walk so slow?' or why does that man limp?' Now I know it's because they were fighting for our country. I'm about to cry now just thinking of them and what they did."

Memorial Day (or Decoration Day) was officially proclaimed in 1868 as a day of remembrance to those who have died in our nation's service. What a blessing to honor the living today. And a double blessing that my daughter gets it.

In Flanders Fields

In Flanders fields the poppies blow

Between the crosses, row on row,

That mark our place; and in the sky

The larks, still bravely singing, fly

Scarce heard amid the guns below.

We are the dead.

Short days ago We lived, felt dawn, saw sunset glow,

Loved, and were loved, and now we lie

In Flanders fields.

Take up our quarrel with the foe:

To you from failing hands we throw

The torch; be yours to hold it high.

If ye break faith with us who die

We shall not sleep, though poppies grow

In Flanders fields.

— John McCrae

[added later by Moina Michael]

We cherish too, the Poppy red

That grows on fields where valor led,

It seems to signal to the skies

That blood of heroes never dies.


Sandy said...

Thank you, Cathy for posting this. So many don't seem to remember what this holiday is for.

Sissy said...

It's nice to begin this day in the right vein: it's not just another holiday. Thank you.

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