Janet Sheridan: Reflections on Memorial Day
On May 30, small flags will be planted; and those who remember will quietly gather in cemeteries across our land. Taps will soar, echo and fade. The names of men and women who died serving our country during times of war will be read, and crowds either large and small, but always attentive, will listen with gratitude to the roll call of our honored dead.
The rest of us will be partying or snapping up bargains.
Too often, traditional ceremonies of remembrance are overwhelmed by the clamor and commerce of more popular Memorial Day celebrations: gigantic sales offering impressive discounts on everything from cars to curling irons and the rambunctious fun and abundant food of barbecues, picnics and campsites.
The other day I saw a card that featured a beach scene with the message “May your Memorial Day weekend by filled with fun and sun.” The greeting seemed inappropriate for a day intended to honor our war dead and remember the loved ones we’ve lost.
I miss the Memorial Day I grew up with: a day filled with family, flowers carried to gravesites and shared memories of loved ones. When I walk through cemeteries where my loved ones lie, they touch my life again. I think about my brother Alan, who didn’t live long enough to tease me and give me a ride on his shoulders. I remember the light-hearted fun of living with my oldest brother Lawrence, who died so recently that thoughts of him still sweep me with sadness.
I imagine my life with the younger sister buried beneath a headstone engraved “Baby Bray” because she died during birth. I never played peek-a-boo with her or cheered when she took her first step. I didn’t teach her how to climb our cottonwood trees or warn her that on the school bus the big kids said first graders were babies and made them sit in the front.
I remember my mother who had more Sunday-night calls to share with the children she nurtured, more laughs to share with the husband she enjoyed, and more surprises to create for her grandchildren: whimsical Christmas ornaments, hand-painted valentines and knitted afghans of bright color.
I smile at my father’s habit of starting a story and pausing to ask his listeners, “Say, have you heard this one before?” Then, without waiting for an answer, continuing, “Well, even if you have, it’s a good one and worth hearing again.” I miss the father who wrote to me when he was 88 to say he wanted to drive his old truck from Lander to Craig to visit me, but, “Your brother won’t let me. He says any truck where you can see the road through the cab floor isn’t fit to drive anywhere but hunting.”
I think about my nephew, a golden child and fine young man who died in an accident before he could graduate from high school, pursue a career, fall in love, have a family of his own. He would have been a good father. I mourn a niece of sweet spirit and courageous soul who battled a faulty heart from the day she was born until the day she died 16 years later, a gentle girl who drew others to her and was loved.
I miss them. And I know you miss your loved ones as well. But sometimes, caught up in the fun activities of a long weekend, we fail to remember them.
Sheridan’s book, “A Seasoned Life Lived in Small Towns,” is available in Craig at Downtown Books and Steamboat Springs at Off the Beaten Path Bookstore. She also blogs at http://www.auntbeulah.com on Tuesdays.
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