|Image: Mark Fischer|
Written by Paul Dail
As I think of past Memorial Days, I can only recall maybe two years out of almost twenty that I didn’t witness some form of precipitation during some part of the three-day weekend, be it a light rain sprinkle to a slushy spring snow storm, whether it followed a long period of drought or stretches of rainy days that seemed would certainly break for the holiday weekend.
And maybe that’s the point.
This past week, Crystal Schwalger of the Indy’s regular column The Crystal View said that when Memorial Day switched from a fixed date to the last Monday of May, many veterans felt that some of the importance and significance was lost. What was once a time to pay respect became just another three-day weekend, the first weekend of summer vacation for many, a time of celebration, to break out the grills.
But even though we shift the date around, maybe the earth has been there to remind us.
There are still people who hold Memorial Day sacred. Beyond just visiting the cemeteries with some flowers and then leaving, I’ve even heard of a tradition of the older women in Italian Catholic families spending entire days by the graves, in great passions of weeping, grieving and moaning. That kind of collective sadness has to have power.
But the fact is, in most of these cases, if you remember to celebrate Memorial Day for what it is, it’s probably because you’ve known someone who fought and died for our country. As opposed to say, celebrating the birth of someone who many believe was the son of God and who died for all of us, Memorial Day is definitely something more personal to a select number of people in our country, namely, those who have lost someone.
I haven’t had anyone close to me die in service to my country, nor have I ever considered fighting for my country save for a brief consideration after high school of joining the Marines in search of a sense of discipline, something which I ended up deciding I could probably find on my own.
I love living in this country and feel fortunate to do so compared with the choice of living in many other countries in the world, but do I love it enough to die for it? Obviously not, if I have never made the choice to join the military. I won’t go much more into this other than to say that I wonder how many men and women have died actually defending our country in recent years versus defending our government’s interests—which I don’t always consider to be my best interests.
However, much like I respect those with a firm conviction in their religious beliefs, from the Jehovah’s witnesses I see diligently standing outside the public library—practically rain or shine—and being outright ignored (and even occasionally insulted) to the cloistered nuns who leave society and give their lives entirely to God, I also respect those who believe in our country, our freedoms, and our government—regardless of who is in power at the time—strongly enough that they are willing to do what is tantamount in their mind to dying to preserve those things for the rest of us.
It’s just sad that we live in a world where it has to be this way, where young men and women die before they are even given a chance to truly live and where they often leave children behind as a result to live on without a parent.
So maybe it’s fitting that there should be some rain on Memorial Day weekend, that it should be at least a little dark and dreary at some point during the weekend, that the earth should remind us how many of our own have died.
Ashes to ashes. Dust to dust. Done too soon.
The mother weeps for the child.
Paul D. Dail received his BFA in English with a Creative Writing emphasis from the University of Montana, Missoula. In addition to news and his bi-weekly opinion column, he also enjoys writing creative nonfiction and fiction (with a penchant for the darker side of the page). His collection of flash fiction, “Free Five,” has spent over a year and a half in the top 50 Kindle Horror Short Stories since its publication in 2012.
Currently Paul lives on the outskirts of Kanarraville, surrounded by the sagebrush and pinyon junipers, with his wife and two children. Read more about him at www.pauldail.com. While he prefers that any comments directed at a specific article be posted in a public forum, he welcomes all other correspondence at [email protected].