In the beauty of the lilies Christ was born across the sea,
With a glory in His bosom that transfigures you and me:
As He died to make men holy, let us live to make men free,
While God is marching on!


Wednesday, June 1, 2011

When Every Day is Memorial Day

NOTE: I had planned to post this on Sunday May 29, but a sudden and near-disastrous virus infection of my home computer over the weekend put me out of action for a few days. Thankfully, the problem is now mostly resolved. But I didn't want Memorial Day to pass too far without an acknowledgment of those left behind, who have to pick up the pieces and march on every day, after a hero falls.

On Memorial Day, we remember and honor those who have given their lives while serving in the Armed Forces of the United States. Solemn ceremonies, military salutes, and the playing of Taps in quiet cemeteries are the order of the day (at least among those who still care what this day is supposed to be about). We think about the fallen heroes and the ultimate sacrifice they made to keep us safe and our country strong and free.

But how much thought and care do we give their survivors--a spouse, children, siblings, parents, even friends? After the funerals and the remembrance ceremonies are over, the rest of us go back to our daily lives and cares. But for those close to one who has died in service to his or her country, every day is Memorial Day--and most of those days aren't enlivened with parades and picnics. They're just like any other day, except that the gaping hole in the survivor's life never goes away--the heartache and loneliness, especially for family members, abides forever. The survivor must go on living life, but somehow manage without the emotional and practical support, the comfort and the guidance, of the one suddenly snatched away.

It's now two days past Memorial Day 2011. Before it fades completely from our memories, let's commit to helping the survivors of fallen service members in some concrete way, as by joining or donating generously to military support organizations like the Veterans of Foreign Wars (VFW), United Service Organization (USO), or Freedom Is Not Free, just to name a few (see a list of additional such organizations here). If you're personally acquainted with or related to a survivor, of course the very best way to help is to let him or her know that you're there for whatever and whenever their need may be. If you don't know a survivor, getting involved in an effort or organization aiding military families will almost certainly lead you to some.

Something that always reminds me poignantly of the military survivor's plight is the great Statler Brothers' song (1977) Silver Medals and Sweet Memories. It tells the story of a young American bride and mother-to-be who lost her husband in World War II, and--together with her child--carried on in loving remembrance without him, the rest of her life. My eyes brim every time I hear it (lyrics below video):

Just a picture on a table
Just some letters Mama saved
And a costume broach from England
On the back it has engraved:
To Eileen, I love you
London, nineteen forty-three.
And she never heard from him again
And he never heard of me

And the war still ain't over for Mama
Every night in her dreams she still sees
The young face of someone who left her
Silver medals and sweet memories

In Mama's bedroom closet
To this day on her top shelf
There's a flag folded three-cornered
Layin' all by itself
And the sergeant would surely be honored
To know how pretty she still is
And that after all these lonely years
His Eileen's still his

And the war still ain't over for Mama
Every night in her dreams she still sees
The young face of someone who left her
Silver medals and sweet memories

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

You've written a very moving--and excellent--blog post here. Your reminder that 'the war still ain't over for mama (and brothers, sisters, other relatives and friends)" is good to remember too. Let us not forget the loved ones left behind to grieve. And thank you for posting that awesome Statler Brothers' song. It always gives me a lump in the throat, and a tear in the eye.