Sunday, May 30, 2010

Memorial Day

Yesterday we walked into town to let Luke dip his feet in the fountain. He loves that. He also made some friends and frolicked in the grass in front of the war memorial. I never actually realized my town HAD a war memorial, so while he scampered about, I stepped up to read the plaques surrounded by flowers. Kind of fitting to find it on Memorial Day weekend.

My Dad did not serve in the military -- he was too young for Korea and I think too old for Vietnam. I don't know if he was in the draft or not. I'll have to ask him. But both my grandpas also lived into the 1980s and 90s. Whether they were in the military or not, I don't know. If so, it wasn't something talked about. One grandfather died when I was just two, the other when I was 19. We never really talked about much at all.

So when it comes to Memorial Day, it's not so much a personal thing to me. Growing up, Memorial Day meant one thing: that the pool at the country club was opening, and it was time for the summer swim season to begin. We might have had a BBQ or something like that, but nothing much was made about remembrance or military sacrifice or the freedoms we take for granted.

But I've been choked up a few times this weekend thinking about those very things. Once was reading this post called "We Remember and are thankful," at Lovely Bud. She writes about her husband who is in the army and how blessed she is that each time he's been deployed, he's returned home to her. How we should not only remember those who fought but their families at home, waiting, praying for their loved ones to come back. I cannot image what being a mother and wife in that situation would be like, how strong you would try to remain for your children while on the inside worrying yourself to pieces.

Then another kind of rememberance spoke to me: one of a mother who has lost her child. Not to a war involving guns and tankers and bombs, but a war of the body, a tiny heart that was fighting for its life. From the blog Out of a New Habit, the talented heart mom Stephanie talks about the birth of her baby girl one year ago. Little Kaia Belle lived only 34 days. She died of a congenital heart defect.

Here's what her mother writes: "Kaia, I miss you more than words could ever explain. I can't believe how much our lives have changed because of you. And I know that your lifetime of work was done in only 34 days, and then you were allowed to go Home. I pray that you are flying with the butterflies and playing with the other lions up there..."

OK, in that case, "choked up" doesn't cover it. Remembering you today, Kaia. What a beautiful little girl you were.

The final time was this morning at church when we saw a short video about a soldier who died in 2004 fighting overseas. He was 22. He was married only a few months before his deployment. In the video, his widow and his mother each read a letter they received from him shortly after this death. I cannot fathom the grief of those women, and also the pride.

Sometimes I profess to hate my country. It's said in jest over things like bad maternity leave laws, or the concept of the Tea Party, or so many other little things that irk me. But the truth is, I know what marvelous freedoms I enjoy. To wear and say what I want, to marry whom I want, to decide whether or not I'll work, to know that there is a justice system and law enforcement that works much of the time to protect me. That I can write this very blog with no reason to worry that I'll be censored or prosecuted for speaking my mind. That I can worship God in openness. By no means are things perfect here, but this land is indeed great, and it's thanks in no small part to the soldiers and elected officials who serve us, to those brave men and women who never get to come home, and to all the mothers out there surviving a kind of grief I can only hope I'll never know.

Happy Memorial Day.


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