The important thing to understand is the significance and solemnity of the tradition, and honor it's purpose.
According to Wikipedia:
"The preferred name for the holiday gradually changed from "Decoration Day" to "Memorial Day," which was first used in 1882. Memorial Day did not become the more common name until after World War II, and was not declared the official name by Federal law until 1967. On June 28, 1968, Congress passed the Uniform Monday Holiday Act, which moved four holidays, including Memorial Day, from their traditional dates to a specified Monday in order to create a convenient three-day weekend. The change moved Memorial Day from its traditional May 30 date to the last Monday in May. The law took effect at the federal level in 1971. After some initial confusion and unwillingness to comply, all 50 states adopted Congress' change of date within a few years."
So, there you have a brief history of Memorial Day, and the Holiday's evolution through the years. To most, it remains a solemn tribute of respect for those selfless individuals who paid the ultimate price for our freedom and security. To others, it has become a much-anticiapted three-day weekend signifying the beginning of summer. This blog is not intended for the latter.
Now... To those who still revere the original intent and desire for Memorial Day, are you troubled by the expansion of the Holiday's meaning to include loved ones -- friends and family members -- who have passed away in the general course of life? In other words, does the placement of flowers on the grave of a cherished parent, grandparent, child or friend -- but, a person who never served in the military -- demean or diminish your love for the Holiday? I ask because, when I visit the graves of my parents and brother -- my father is a veteran of World War II, and neither my mother nor brother served in the military -- the sense of loss I feel is of equal measure. So I hope you're accepting of that. If so, thank you.
Now... To the other aspect of "Memorial Day."
Ladies and gentlemen, I present to you all those veterans, family members and beloved friends who have had a special impact on your life, who helped mold the person you are today, who believed in you and worked hard to ensure your health and wellbeing, and... are still alive!
"Wait. Wait. Wait a second. Memorial Day is speciafically dedicated to those who have died, right? I mean, a person really doesn't receive the benefits of Memorial Day until they've 'passed away.' Right?"
Oh, really, and why does that have to be?
How many times have you heard someone say, "It's such a shame. Her body is wearing out, but her mind is still sharp as a tack." Or, how about, "I keep expecting the call any day now that he's passed away." Here's another doozy: "It seems like the only time I see you is at a wedding or funeral."
And... Have you listened to the news in the past two years? The Veterans Administration in this Country is under constant fire for their abysmal service, life-threatening wait times to even see a physician, understaffed VA hospitals and virtually non-existant communications with patients and their families.
So... Here we have these treasured people, sitting in a chair, lying in a bed or waiting endlessly at home for an indication -- any indication -- that someone out there still cares whether they live or die.
Do you decorate one or more graves on Memorial Day to honor those who meant so much to you? Well, then grab another bunch of flowers and go visit Aunt Helen in the nursing home. Or go share a stack of old photos with grandpa while he can still see them and re-live the moments. Maybe you'll discover he can even still smile. What about the neighbor whose suffering through a serious illness alone because her family lives too far away to visit on a regular basis. And for the love of God, don't wait 'til her funeral to discover how well cousin Molly's chemo treatments are working. Get off your butt and go see for yourself.
And you know what else? If we blink our eyes a few times, we'll be the ones wondering, "Where did everybody go."
Now, believe me, I'm not advocating we all become clones of Mother Theresa. Nothing of the kind. But, I do think you'll cherish the memory of someone special saying, "You're visit means more to me than you can ever imagine."
How about that.