I’ve been thinking about Memorial Day recently. I’m the daughter of a Battle of the Bulge survivor/veteran, and the mother of a member of the US armed forces, a veteran of multiple deployments to the Middle East. Several of my high school classmates left this life in the jungles of Vietnam, while others returned home. I understand the difference between Memorial Day and Veterans Day, and the original reason for these holidays. That said…
As a child, Memorial Day included remembering family members who have died, too. With the cemetery close to our home, it was just a walk to “visit” Grandma and Grandpa, and, in time, Uncle Walt. In more recent years, uncles and aunts have joined them, as has my sweet sister, Marilyn.
Memorial Day four years ago is especially memorable to me, and to some of my family, who were there with us. The story of that day was written by my daughter, Jenn, shortly after Marilyn passed away two months later.
It was Memorial Day 2013; and Matthew and I were going to meet family members at Elysian Gardens Cemetery to place flowers on the headstones. For once, the weather cooperated and was sunny with just the right amount of wind. Matthew was initially more excited about seeing his Great-Grandma, PoPo (Wayne), and Marilyn.
As Marilyn was having a hard time with the side effects of chemotherapy, she wisely chose to stay in the car. With the car parked in the shade and the two front windows down, it provided a great place for her to see everything going on in comfort. I went over and stayed by the car with her, talking about anything and everything, watching all that was going on.
Everywhere you looked, headstones had been decorated with flowers, teddy bears, flags, and pinwheels. Remember I mentioned that there was just the right amount of wind? Well, all those pinwheels were happily turning in breeze, displaying quite a rainbow of colors. Being a typical four year old, Matthew couldn’t contain himself, he just had to stop all those pinwheels! He would stop one of them and go to stop all the others; only to race back to the original because it was turning again. Back and forth he ran yelling, “Stop turning! No, stop it!” and other things. Marilyn begin to laugh and not a small laugh either. This was laughter that I had not heard from her for many months; and hearing it made me laugh. We laughed until we were breathless and had tears in our eyes, which only served to make us laugh more.
Poor Matthew, he never did get all those pinwheels to stop turning, but what he did accomplish was something so much greater. For a brief moment in time, Marilyn was completely free of all her worries and cares, setting aside the physical and mental problems.
He gave me something too. He gave me the perfect memory of Marilyn to keep in my heart and his, the sound of her laughter that was as joyful as those pinwheels turning in the breeze.
And so it is, that pinwheels spin in my front yard, as well as in cemeteries around the country this weekend.
While Monday may be the day set apart for remembering those who gave their lives in the service of our country, it is also a day I remember those who have gone before me, who await my arrival, someday, in the presence of the Father, where all tears and sorrows have passed, and joy is found.