Memorial Day is much more than just the start of summer vacation season. Memorial Day is for remembering the people who died while serving in the United States armed forces. Initially called Decoration Day, the holiday began as a day to honor those who died in the Civil War (c. 1868). Over the years, the term Decoration Day functionally serves as a time for people to visit cemeteries to place flowers on the graves of family and friends.
Don’t miss out on this teaching opportunity for your own heart, your children, and your grandchildren.
Gratitude for Military Service
We stop to remember the ultimate sacrifice of thousands to provide for us the freedoms that we enjoy today. Over 660,000 men and women have died in combat; double that amount to account for non-combat deaths in war. Memorial Day helps us pause life to say “Thank you.”
Thank you for serving.
Thank you for protecting.
Thank you for providing.
Thank you for caring.
Thank you for sacrificing.
Life is BIGGER than just right NOW.
Memorial Day helps us remember that life is bigger than just right now, this moment. Life’s demands and desires often distract us from seeing life outside the context of the here-and-now. Often we lose appreciation for the past because we are so focused on today’s opportunities, trials, and challenges. Reality is this: none of us arrived here alone. It does not matter whoever you are, whatever you do, or wherever you are, you owe many people a load of thanks for coming before you, clearing the path, working to benefit others, and spending their time and efforts for causes greater than their own. Regardless if you are the best-off or the worst-off, you have still benefited from others. Memorial Day offers you an opportunity to recognize and appreciate those others.
Death Comes to All
Memorial Day also reminds us that death ultimately comes to all people. As you walk along the graves, you can’t help but notice the dates. You think about what the stories must have been. You see the similarities in last names and observe the varieties of ages. Some died just as they began to live. Some died as children. Some died as teenagers. Some died as young adults. Some died as middle-aged. Some died older. Some stories you know. Others you can’t help but wonder the particulars.
Bottom-line: all die. The wisest person to ever live wrote (Ecclesiastes 7:2, 4):
Better to go to the house of mourning
Than to go to the house of feasting,
For that is the end of all men;
And the living will take it to heart.
The heart of the wise is in the house of mourning,
But the heart of fools is in the house of mirth.
To say it simply: being in a funeral home or a cemetery is better for you than being at a party. Why? Because the dead body or gravestone is proof positive that all people die. So, while you live, take it to heart. Live in light of eternity. Furthermore, prepare for death (see how here).
So What Should You Do?
Take time to remember. For many reasons it may be impossible for you to actually take time out of your schedule to observe Memorial Day. However, go ahead and pause long enough to remember those who have sacrificed their lives for yours in military service. Consider those in your life who have already lived and died. Remember.
Take time to honor. It is bigger than just remembering. Move the step further in your mind and actions, honor those who have died. Think specifically how you have benefited from their sacrifice (for those who died in military service) and their life (for all others). Respect what they have done. Respond with appreciation and reverence out of gratitude. Honor.
Take time to decorate. For those of you who have or can make the time, go pick out some flowers and head out to the cemetery. Out of a sense of love and appreciation, drop off some flowers. Pull a little grass. Dust and clean. Enjoy every minute of living for more than just this moment. Decorate.
Take time to celebrate. As you look around and consider the graves of the soldiers or the headstones of your relatives, stop to celebrate. Rejoice in their sacrifice. Remember the smiles you shared. Recognize all the blessings and benefits you have as a result of their lives. Celebrate.
Take time to contemplate. Walk through the cemetery. Look at the dates and names. Pause your life long enough to think about those whose lives are represented around you. Observe well. Contemplate.
Take time to serve.
- Serve the dead. They will never know on this side of eternity. However, you will receive the reward and the encouragement.
- Serve the living. You have great ministry opportunity for those who love and remember as well. Your flowers, time, thoughts, and acts of love serve those who have been left behind on earth. You allow them the joy of knowing someone else remembers. Someone cares. Someone loves.
- Serve the elderly. So many older people can’t get out or possibly drive. Ask them if you can take them. Ask them if you can help. Ask them if it is possible for you to take them and serve alongside them. If they are prohibited from travel, grab a picture of the decorated grave and share it with them.
Take time to talk. Talk to yourself. Talk to your children. Talk to family. Talk to the elderly. Talk to others in the cemetery. Ask good questions to yourself, your children, and your grandchildren. Help those around you see Solomon’s wisdom that the wise person takes to heart. Tell the stories. Relive the events. Recall the laughter. Remember the love. Talk.
Join the Conversation
How do you love and serve on Memorial Day?
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