I recently moved to a new community. Most mornings my ritual is to go for a run. Across the street from my apartment is a cemetery. For the past week I’ve been running on a road winding its way past the grave stones. I’m accompanied by the names of those who have gone before me. Each name with a story of which I know nothing but with whom I feel connected.
I’m reminded of walking as a boy with my parents through a similar cemetery. Each Memorial Day weekend, they would take me to where our ancestors are laid to rest. At each stone we would pause and plant flowers. As we worked the plants into the earth, my Dad or Mom would tell me the story of who was buried under that stone. Each marker served to remind me of the people that I come from. One stone reads: ‘ Moses Harrop 1903 – 1906’. My Dad told me that Moses was the uncle he never knew. All we know is his name and at age three died during an influenza outbreak. My Dad would say: “We remember who we are as we remember the ones to whom we belong.”
Memorial Day is a reminder on both a personal and national level of who we are. As a nation we gather at ceremonies both formal and informal to remember and honor veterans of the military who served our nation. Their stones with their stark date of birth and death, remind us that most often it is the young who pay the ultimate price in war.
This Memorial Day I will join my neighbors and visit the graves of loved ones. I will plant flowers at my Dad’s grave. We will plant our geraniums and tell the story to any who will listen, of those laid to rest. As we do so, we will remember who we are, as we remember the ones to whom we each belong.