For many people, this weekend marks the beginning of the lazy, hazy, crazy days of summer. This is the weekend when pools are opened. It’s the weekend when people fire up their grills and enjoy perhaps the first barbecue of the season.
It’s a weekend for travel – going to see family members who have not been together since Christmas – or longer. It’s a weekend for the big race in Indianapolis – the Indy 500. In the stores near where I live, you can find black and white checkered table cloths and other items, including paper plates emblazoned with the Indianapolis Motor Speedway logo.
For many people it will also mark the time when they take flowers to the graves of loved ones. We envision Arlington Cemetery with its seemingly endless rows of crosses and stars of David, identifying the graves of servicemen and women who have given their lives.
Ever since the first Memorial Day, known as Decoration Day, was established in 1868, people have been honoring those who died in the service of their country. After September 11, 2001, we have also remembered firefighters, paramedics, and police officers killed in the line of duty.
Memorial Day is an important holiday for a variety of reasons. One of the most important reasons is just this – we tend to forget. Life goes on. We become busy with a thousand other things – and we forget. We forget that we enjoy enormous freedoms because some of our fellow citizens have donned uniforms and put their lives on the line in order to gain those freedoms (Revolutionary War) or preserve them (many conflicts since then).
The final resting place of Dwight D. Eisenhower, World War II general and 34th president, is a small building on the campus of his Presidential Library and Museum in Abilene, Kansas. In accordance with his wishes, a portion of the building is reserved for quiet reflection. This is in keeping with the president’s character, according to historian Douglas Brinkley, who adds, “He was at heart a peaceful and thoughtful man who spent his entire life pursuing duty, honor and love of country.”
So I encourage you to take some time for reflection this weekend, so that you “do not forget the things your eyes have seen or let them fade from your heart as long as you live” (Deuteronomy 4:9 NIV).
Ron McClung is assistant general secretary with The Wesleyan Church.
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