Joshua 4:4-7 (NLT)
4 So Joshua called together the twelve men he had chosen—one from each of the tribes of Israel. 5 He told them, “Go into the middle of the Jordan, in front of the Ark of the Lord your God. Each of you must pick up one stone and carry it out on your shoulder—twelve stones in all, one for each of the twelve tribes of Israel. 6 We will use these stones to build a memorial. In the future your children will ask you, ‘What do these stones mean?’ 7 Then you can tell them, ‘They remind us that the Jordan River stopped flowing when the Ark of the Lord’s Covenant went across.’ These stones will stand as a memorial among the people of Israel forever.”
To some Memorial Day is merely the beginning of summer and to others it’s a solemn day to remember those who have passed from this life. However, to the war veteran and to the families of fallen soldiers, Memorial Day carries significance so deep that words cannot express their hearts.
When we look into the eyes of those who still mourn these once vibrant men and women, we often sense their loneliness and pain. We hear them choke back tears as they simply say the ranks and names of their military brothers and sisters at a Memorial Day service. White gloves, dress uniforms, rigid posture, and perfectly executed salutes represent the reverence and respect flowing from within. Those who have been personally affected by war understand and appreciate this day of remembrance.
What should we say to those who sincerely honor this day? “Happy Memorial Day” doesn’t seem fitting. “I’m sorry for your loss” may be more appropriate. What would the fallen soldier want from their comrades and the rest of the country on this day?
In an often quoted Memorial Day speech given in 1884 by Oliver Wendell Holmes Jr., he ended his address with these words, “Our dead brothers still live for us, and bid us think of life, not death — of life to which in their youth they lent the passion and joy of the spring. As I listen, the great chorus of life and joy begins again, and amid the awful orchestra of seen and unseen powers and destinies of good and evil our trumpets sound once more a note of daring, hope, and will.”
The American soldier who gave his or her life for U.S. citizens to enjoy life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness won’t be telling us how to observe the holiday. But I believe that Holmes’ proposition to “think of life, not death” would honor the fallen soldier. Their sacrifice follows the example of Jesus Christ laying down His life for our freedom. It’s selfless love for others – not so others can mourn, but live forever !
1 John 3:16
“We know what real love is because Jesus gave up his life for us. So we also ought to give up our lives for our brothers and sisters.”