Monday is Memorial Day, a day set aside to remember and honor those who died in service to their country.
Sometimes it’s a little hard to remember that it’s not just a “bank holiday” that marks the beginning of summer, or a great weekend for sales. So here are five suggestions for ways to put the “memory” back into Memorial Day.
1. Put flowers on a grave. Memorial Day used to be called Decoration Day, because that was the day people decorated the graves of those who were being remembered. My father did not die in service to his country, but he did serve his country. In the little country churchyard where his ashes are buried, every Memorial Day my aunt and uncle put flowers on his grave and on the graves of all the veterans. That simple token of love and respect for those who served their country means a lot to me.
2. Tell your chldren (or nieces or nephews) about someone in your family who lost their life in service to our country. The serviceman in the photograph above is my father’s cousin, Howard, who was like a brother to him. Howard was a pilot who served in the European theater in World War II. His plane went down over the Adriatic Sea and he was never found. When I look at this picture of him, so young and strong and full of life, and think of how much he gave up, and how much his mother lost when she lost him (he was her only child), it makes me feel sad. It also makes me want to be sure that Howard, though he never had the chance to have a family of his own, will never be forgotten by the family he came from.
3. Write about that person, who they were, how, when and where they died, what they were like, and add it to your written family history. Writing this blog has made me want to know more about Howard. So one of my Memorial Day weekend activities is going to be to try to see what I can find out, and then record it in my family history files.
4. Find any war letters that may be in your home and make sure they are safely stored. If you don’t want them, consider donating them to a historical society, museum, or to WarLetters.com. Warletters.com also has great advice for how to help preserve the letters you want to keep.
5. Go to a parade, and honor the veterans who are living. I don’t know how many small-town parades are still taking place on Memorial Day. I think some of us have been relying just a bit too much on “the greatest generation” to keep these things going. But look around your area and find out who’s doing what to keep the real meaning of Memorial Day alive, and support them! Go ahead and let your heart be stirred by the sign of the stars and stripes. Enjoy the patriotic music of the day. (I happen to know that there’s a wonderful, old-fashioned Memorial Day concert each year in Brooklyn’s Greenwood Cemetery.)
So there you have five perfectly wonderful things to do on Memorial Day weekend. You may notice that not a single one of them has anything to do with going shopping, or buying stuff.
That’s not what this blog is about. And it’s not what Memorial Day is about either.
Wishing you a meaningful Memorial Day, and a great start to the summer!
Janet Hulstrand is a writer/editor, writing coach, travel blogger, and coauthor of Moving On: A Practical Guide to Downsizing the Family Home
Filed under: Buy Nothing Day, family history, keeping the memories, mourning, share your stories | Tagged: honoring those who served, Memorial Day, preserving family history, remembering those who served, war letters |