Thoughts on Memorial Day


          Yesterday, Memorial Day marked one more day in this sad and uncertain time for our country. In Arizona where I live, it was a sunny, hot, and glorious morning. I spent part of the day wandering around a large Catholic Cemetery. Yes, it may sound an odd thing to do, but for some unknown reason it seemed comforting to me.

          After leaving the burial grounds and for the rest of the day, I continued to think about what I’d seen and felt. Because it was Memorial Day, there were many people visiting. Most solemn, respectful of the moment. Some stood quietly, looking down at a specific grave, others like Suzanne and I, moving about looking at names, photographs, and the mementos placed on the tombstones. Several giant pine trees are spread around the grounds. Each casting vast shadows over several graves. I thought what a beautiful spot to be. Shaded from the hot Arizona sun and serenaded by happy Spring birds hopping about in the branches. A good place for a final rest.

 I was particularly interested in the graves of military veterans. Most of the markers identifying the final resting spot of veterans told of the branch of service, the rank of the person and in those cases where the man or woman served in a war, the specific war was named. One man had been involved in what was noted as the “Mexican War.” Many markers showed service in World War I, World War II, Korea, Vietnam and one or two in our most recent wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. Privates and Majors lay silently beside each other. Small flags waved near many of the markers.

          I was moved to tears in reading about and considering the sacrifices made by so many since the inception of this country. And I admit, some of my tears were shed in my sadness for the current state of our nation and the rest of the world. Millions around the planet are ill, starving, displaced from their homeland and dying. Collectively it seems what we are doing about these tragedies is making little impact. My intent in these words is not political, it is realistic. And yet, the political divide in this country is immense, and I fear for our future.

          Many of the graves were those of people of Hispanic descent. In part I suppose because it is a Catholic cemetery. I was struck by two things. A great number of the Mexican American men buried were young. I counted a dozen or more where the man was only twenty or twenty-one years old when he died. Why, I questioned. In a perfect world there should not be such disparity in deaths at such an early age. I also saw a large family, also Hispanic, having what looked and sounded like a party. The group had set up chairs around a grave and were talking, laughing, and had music playing. I’m reasonably certain there was some sadness, but it was clearly a celebration. And as I thought about it, I knew it was exactly what it should be. I’m not sure who they were visiting, but I would have bet the person would have been happy in knowing how they were being remembered.

          We left after an hour or so of walking. Many people were still tending the grave of a loved one, the family laughing and enjoying the beautiful day and the sweet chirping of birds. I’m not the praying kind, but I left my highest thoughts for all who rested there. I felt I owed a special thanks yesterday to those men and women who have served and died for this country. And again I say, thank you.

“In peace, sons bury their fathers. In war, fathers bury their sons.”    Herodotus.

“The Earth laughs in flowers.”    Ralph Waldo Emerson.

Go well, David