Today is the day that is set aside to memorialize the men and women who have died in military service of this country. Like many holidays, the meaning is often overshadowed by the modern traditions. Although we all enjoy a day off from work or a barbecue with family and friends, these momentary things mask the greater meaning of the day. This year especially, the meaning is near the surface for me.
About a month ago, my Uncle Joe passed away. Although he served in the Air Force for many years, it was not a war but cancer that took his life. Despite the fact that he did not die serving our country, he is the person that will most be on my mind this Memorial Day. It was actually his funeral service that truly hammered home the unspoken meaning of this day.
Memorial Day is intended for us to remember the fallen and we should. I was recently speaking to a student about the “Fearometer” (subject for another blog). The basic concept is rating the amount of fear caused by a situation on a scale of 1-10. Personally I believe that being a soldier on a boat about to storm the beach at Normandy would be a 10. Walking into a situation of almost certain death is something that many of our service men and women have faced throughout history. The underlying motivation for overcoming that fear was protecting the freedoms that we enjoy every day including Memorial Day. So using this day to remember these brave souls who paid the ultimate price is completely deserved.
The unspoken meaning that my Uncle Joe’s passing made so clear to me is that in remembering those that have fallen, we need to realize what it means for us. There is space to be filled. The loss of my Uncle left a hole in the world that we all have to find some way to fill: not his job or his money but his spirit, his kindness. The unique gifts, he brought into the world. It is incumbent upon us all to fill in the space that he left behind. We cannot replace those who went before us but only hope to carry on their legacy by following the example that they set.
So remember today and remember to act tomorrow.