Memorial Day 2009
Memorial Day is coming up.
I'm pretty excited. Not only do I have kids coming home, the small church my great-grandparents helped found asked me to be their speaker for the day.
It's a big deal to me, an honor and a responsibility I take seriously. I'll be standing only a few feet from my great-grandparents' grave and after the ceremony I'll go over and give them the annual "State of the Farm" address. Nothing dramatic to tell them -- I've planted a few more trees, the bills are paid and all the children are employed. Plus, I'm a little balder and whatâ€™s left of my hair is a little grayer.
Actually, I shouldn't have said nothing dramatic has happened. I have a new granddaughter, a beautiful girl who adds color and life to the world, as well as a certain weight and responsibility to all my decisions. I think she'll be here, too. If she is, I'll take a moment to introduce her to her great-great-great grandparents.
Nationwide, we have all sorts of new things to discuss that have happened since last year. A new president, a new recession, and most of us have a new retirement plan (namely, work until we die).
And some things haven't changed. We're still fighting wars in at least two different countries and we just sent off our local National Guard troops for another deployment.
That was hard -- a couple of our former Sunday school students left, along with a number of other young people we've known their whole lives.
It's hard for us -- it's the sort of thing that is always on your mind at least a little bit -- so I can't imagine what it's like for their parents and other family members.
On the other hand, it should be hard. If we're going to send our cherished young people off to a place we wouldn't want to go, there should be nothing simple, painless, or casual about it. It should be agonizing for the people who make the decision; it should be debated thoroughly and publically, and even after the decision is made someone should stand up every now and then and say, "Are you sure you know what the hell you're doing?"
That's one of the reasons we celebrate Memorial Day. It's not an easy holiday, but one of the ways we keep faith with those who have gone before us is to not let the day end with listening to "Taps" and going on a picnic. Instead, to earn what we have been given we should make sure that their memories, their achievements, and their dreams are acknowledged and respected.
Many years ago, a businessman told me that when he was involved in a deal that was starting to feel just the tiniest bit shady, he would make his decision about what to do by picturing himself sitting down with his 12 year old daughter, carefully explaining every step of what he'd done, and imagining the look on her face.
If the people whose memories we honor on Memorial Day could ask us, "What have you done with our country?" we need to be able to give our answer without cringing.
And that's something to think about on Memorial Day.