Traditions. Somehow doing the familiar helps us cope with the painful parts of life. I was reminded of one of these traditions today. In our part of the US, it is customary to pull over as a funeral procession passes. It shows respect for the deceased and for those left behind as they mourn. I well remember how much it meant to my family at the death of my father-in-law as I saw vehicles of all types pull over, from private cars to motorcycles to large dump trucks. It seemed as if the world, which had turned chaotic at his unexpected passing, stopped for just a minute to pay respects and acknowledge our sadness. And it helped us begin to heal.
Seeing the stopped cars reminded me of Memorial Day and the meaning behind the holiday. Started by Southern women decorating the graves of their loved ones lost in war, the tradition spread across the country and was recognized as a national holiday by Congress in 1971 with the National Holiday Act. The traditions of the holiday began to lose popularity as people chose fun over a trip to the cemetary, but with the Gulf Wars, more are choosing to take a moment to remember those who have died in service to our country. In 2004 Washington, DC, held its first Memorial Day Parade in over 60 years, and a National Moment of Remembrance has been celebrated since 2000. This Memorial Day, all Americans are urged, at 3:00 pm, “To voluntarily and informally observe in their own way a Moment of remembrance and respect, pausing from whatever they are doing for a moment of silence or listening to Taps.” (For more information, please visit the No Greater Love website http://www.ngl.org.) Our current war has taken a great toll on families, the military, and America. By choosing to add this moment to our traditions on Memorial Day, we can show the same respect for the fallen as those who took a moment to stop their cars for a funeral procession. And perhaps, in a small way, we can again feel the spirit of unity and caring that blanketed the US after 9/11 and honor the ultimate sacrifice made for you and for me.
As Tritech expressed our sympathy to the families of peace officers slain this year, we do the same for the families of men and women who gave their lives that we might be free. This weekend, Americans will attend picnics, baseball games, or car shows. We’ll build sand castles at the beach, shop ‘till we drop, or just sit in our recliner and watch old movies. Maybe we’ll attend other Memorial Day services. But as we enjoy our holiday, we will remember that we are able to do this thanks to your loved ones.