When anyone says, “Happy Memorial Day,” I cringe inwardly. Like many other holidays in the United States, Memorial Day has become a day off from work, an opportunity to eat, drink, and be merry. Because it occurs in late May, when those of us in northerly latitudes are starting to feel comfortable that there will be no more snow and freezing winds, Memorial Day has become synonymous with the unofficial start of summer, with Labor Day marking its close (summer solstice and autumnal equinox notwithstanding).
Some people, like elders and the residents of small towns in which a single cemetery may house all the dead and where a parade features people you know. remember that Memorial Day commemorates the dead. Service organizations place American flags on the graves of veterans like my father, aunt, and uncle. Widows and widowers update their spouses on life in the past year. Unfortunate parents think of what their baby might have grown to be. Sons and daughters lay flowers reverently on stones or plant shrubs nearby to bring life to the dead. If you have lived long enough, you may pay tribute not only to parents, spouse, siblings, and comrades, but perhaps even a child or two.
Memorial Day does not have to be a sad occasion, and a picnic with all the fixings may be just the thing to put the winter blahs to rest. Before you head out to the backyard, park, pool, or beach, give Memorial Day its due and think about someone you loved and why you you loved them. Then never forget.