Before you chomp into that extra crispy drumstick, consider this: It’s a day of sorrow
In the U.S.A, on the last Monday in the month of May, we take a day to remember — to remember all the men and women who have died while serving in our country’s armed forces. Monday is Memorial Day — and it’s a day of sorrow.
A white cross = a life unfinished
In my hometown, the week before Memorial Day, the local government posts along the side of main roads hundreds of white crosses. Each cross proudly flying an American flag and a name.
There are souls from every major war that America has fought in: Iraq (2003); Desert Storm or Gulf War (1991); Vietnam (1955); Korean (1950); WWII (1939); and WWI (1914).
I’ve even seen a few crosses with names from the Spanish-American War (1898).
And, get this, there’s even one from the Civil War (1861).
This tribute of white crosses is lovely — and I look forward to it every year.
But what are we celebrating?
Hint: It’s not just a 3-day weekend.
We gather. We gobble saucy ribs and extra crispy chicken with a side of coleslaw. We guzzle soft drinks and beer. And then, we finish it all with something sweet and frosted in red, white, and blue.
Jolly times, eh?!
But I can’t help wondering how many of us appreciate the enormity of the losses and sacrifices this day represents, especially those of us whose lives and hearts have not been ripped asunder by this type of loss.
Stop. Consider. Bow.
As I drive about town running this or that errand, I see people speeding by in their vehicles, living their lives, and seeming not to notice the white crosses, each a representation of a soul that died in this or that war.
But I feel compelled to slow down, to pause, and to try impossibly to read every name on every cross. (Hey, you in the vehicle behind me, stop honking your horn.) I even try to put faces to and imagine stories to some. For example:
- There are three white crosses with the surname of Laurin. Oh, how did Mother Laurin’s heart ever bear it?! Did she lose her boys all at once or one heartbreak at a time?! Did she mourn for her grandbabies that would never be?!
- What about Elmer W. Fuller, Sr.?! Did the love of his life collapse even before the two uniformed, death notification officers uttered, “We regret to inform you that your husband Sargent Elmer W. Fuller, Sr. was…?!” Was there a little girl or little boy waiting anxiously for daddy to come home and play?!
- And over there are four Murphy’s. Did they look alike?! Were their eyes light or dark?! Were they close or did they fight like brothers sometimes do?! Did they have girls who dreamed dreams of them and longed for their safe return home?!
You may ask why fixate on a white cross with a name. Well, let me tell you why:
Because each cross bears the name of a once upon a time someone — like me, like you. Someone whose story is forever unfinished, because they died too young, too brutally in a senseless war.
They were once a son or a daughter, a brother or a sister, a husband or a wife, a father or a mother, or even an unfulfilled dream of love for some girl or boy.
They had their own hopes, their own dreams, their own fears. And, whatever their story, they had enormous courage. They braved the pit of hell and lost. We lost.
So on Memorial Day, gather, eat, and make merry, but also consider the losses and sacrifices made by others:
- the parent who has lost a child;
- the daughter whose father will never walk her down the aisle;
- the son who will never know the warm, unconditional love of his mother; or
- the widow who must go on without the love of her life.
These human stories lost are the victims of the soulless, gruesome murderer that is war and the men who start them. And these unfinished lives sacrificed and lost are at the heart of Memorial Day.
UPDATED on May 28, 2021.
14 thoughts on “Monday Is Memorial Day: Where’s Our Deep Sorrow?”
Well said. Well written. I look forward to seeing these crosses every Memorial Day too. They keep the memory alive of all the men and women who gave and sacrificed their lives so that I may live freely in America. My thoughts and prayers goes out to every family in every country in the world who have lost loved ones in this awful thing called WAR. God bless you all and thank you.
It is sad that most Americans view it as just another day off or the start of summer fun.
You know, you’re right. I didn’t even think about that. Indeed, how sad!
Memorial Day should be a day for reflection, as you have eloquently demonstrated, Janine. More people need to take time out to reflect….
Yes, Alton. Today is for reflection… Thanks for taking part in it.
Beautifully said. I am glad that you never had to choose: kill or be killed. I still hope for a world where no one ever has to make this choice.
Beautifully put. So many crosses. So many stories. A thousand books and a thousand movies could not contain the stories of our brave men and women.
I believe it is a contradiction of terms to say “Happy Memorial Day.”
In my parlor hangs a picture of my mom’s brother, John Benjamin Folsom, who died a heroic death as he flew his last mission in WW 2. So young and so full of promise. I could never have imagined that my own family would experience the same grief that my dear grandparents endured these many years later.
A day to remember the unforgettable.
Thank you, Janine.
Hi, Betsy. I couldn’t agree more. Happy is a contradiction. The the willingness of those who have served and do serve our country to sacrifice their own hopes, dreams and future for the many is astonishing! I am sorry for the lost of John Benjamin. And today and every day, I mourn him and all the others who have given us the ultimate sacrifice and gift!
No, he does NOT! And yes he does! But any apology coming from him would be a meaningless and empty one!
My name is Kim. I wanted to say “Thank You” for recognizing the significance of Memorial Day.
I recently (September 16, 2016) became a Gold Star mother. This is an “elite” group of women who never wanted to be members of this club. We are (honorably served & discharged) veterans who have lost a child or children while they were serving on active duty.
This past Memorial Day weekend I slept more than I was awake. I may have never known the true significance of Memorial Day before this past one, but I can tell you with all confidence, I painfully understand the signicance today.
I am not unique in this journey. As a daughter, veteran, mother and fellow American, my ❤ & prayers go out to all the families whose loved one(s) was among the fallen heroes of our American history. They too belong to an unwanted group, Families of the Fallen.
Once again Janine, thank you for taking the time and effort to recognize the sacrifice this day represents. God Bless America.
To say I am sorry for your tremendous loss of your child seems so inadequate. I can only imagine how difficult this Memorial Day and, most likely, all future Memorial Days will be for you. I will continue to hope for peace for all of those, who unfortunately, below to the “elite” group and for those still serving.
I would love to hear any stories you would care to share about the child you lost. Please feel free to contact me on my Say Hi page.
P.S. Thank you for taking the time to share this personal story here!
This is a very compassionate and insightful article. Remembering and honoring a life cut to short is a necessary and great thing to do. Thank you for understanding the true meaning of Memorial Day.
Thanks, Jeffrey. It’s so important for us all to remember the prices paid by others so we might live.