Monday, May 25, 2015


This post ran last year on Memorial Day. I'm sharing it again because it remains the best way I have to honor the day and remember the fallen.


The Meaning of Days

How do you write about something and not make it about yourself?

How do I blog about Memorial Day and not make it about me?

Because it isn't. It really, really isn't about me, my feelings or my views.

I could tell you about how I was raised as a Unitarian during the '60s and how my sisters' friends were conscientious objectors. I could tell you that my Grandfather fought in Italy in WW1 and my father served in Japan in the Army of the Occupation in WW2.

Oh, and have I ever told you that my family fought on both sides of the American Revolution and the Civil War?

I was raised to believe that war was wrong, killing was wrong, but that sometimes you still had to do it, and you had to choose very wisely, because life is precious.

But Memorial Day isn't about me. It is about choice, risk and commitment, fear, pain, work, dedication, and grief that I will never know. If I hang out a flag does that even begin to touch it? If I stop to say a prayer will it mean something?

Would I know how to pray?

I once had a conversation with an Episcopal priest about a complicated issue that sincerely troubled me. I said, "I feel like I am sitting in the back of the class, waving my hand, saying, 'I don't get it.'"

He said, "You don't have to get it."

In other words: it's not about you. Let go of the notion that it has to make sense to you. Be open to a meaning beyond your comprehension.

I'm closing with a poem that circulated in England during World War Two. Eleanor Roosevelt shared it in her My Day column on June 39, 1944.

"We who have husbands at home should be very quiet

For we do not know

The meaning of days, nor yet do we understand

The hush of houses where in shadow go

The unheard footsteps, the invisible faces of men.

Let us not speak

Too loudly of war restrictions and rationing and in the black-out

For there are eyes that seek

Empty horizons, skies and deserts and sad gray seas,

And a sign from God.

While we who have husbands at home look in the shops

For wool perhaps, or cod

Let us remember, when we complain of the winters cold

There are others here

Who have held in the moonless dark of a thousand nights

The hand of fear,

And have walked for years in desolate barren valleys

Where no flowers grow

We who have husbands at home should be very quiet,

For we do not know."

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