I remember the days of old, I think about all your deeds, I meditate on the works of your hands.Psalm 143:5
Like so many things over the last 10 weeks, Memorial Day has a different look and feel to it this year due to the Covid-19 pandemic that has distanced us from one another. Without the picnics and get-togethers with family and friends; or getaways for a three-day weekend this year, perhaps we can take time on this day to remember what Memorial Day means and when and why it came to be.
Memorial Day began near the close of the American Civil War around 1866 to honor the Union and Confederate soldiers that had died in the war. It was originally known as Decoration Day and was a day set aside to encourage families and communities to remember in part by decorating the graves of the fallen soldiers. In 1971, Memorial Day was declared a national holiday by an act of Congress. It was then also placed on the last Monday in May and commemorates all men and women who have died in military service.
The day also became a time in which we remember all our loved ones who have died; much like we do on All-Saints’ Day in the church. Many still go to the cemeteries to decorate the graves of loved ones and remember them with gratitude. This is also a good day to remember with gratitude that God’s presence is with us in the midst of all things; even times that are uncertain and unsettled.
In some reading I was doing recently from the writings of Oswald Chambers, he wrote about remembering. He reminds us that God is still active in our lives even in our remembering. “Never be afraid when God brings back the past,” he wrote. “Let memory have its way. It is a minister of God.”
On this Memorial Day and in the uncertain time in which we live, may we pause to remember with gratitude those who have gone before us. May we remember what they meant to us, how their lives have shaped or influenced ours, and what the ripple effect of their lives has been. May we allow our memories to have their way in our hearts and minds and offer thanks to God for what was, what is, and what will be.