I remember in my youth how much I loved to have Memorial Day because it meant that I was getting a three-day weekend. We would have family BBQ’s and go to the cemeteries to decorate our relatives graves with flowers-mostly relatives I had never met. I do not remember feeling any sadness. In fact, I don’t even remember really thinking about the significance of the day or why we even celebrated this holiday.
In my adult years, we continued to do the same things-traditions carried forward. I was always happy that my husband had a three-day weekend. And I felt little to no sadness as we went to decorate the graves. I did, however, have a greater appreciation for the purpose and significance of the holiday.
I will never forget the first Memorial Day after my husband’s passing-he had been gone for three months. It was no longer a three-day weekend to look forward too. It was not about BBQ’s. It was not a “party” weekend. It was actually a dreaded weekend because I knew that I would be going to the cemetery and placing flowers on graves-the graves of my two best friends, my husband and my mom. My mom passed away just six months before my husband.
Let’s face it, although Memorial Day was established to remember those who died while in the service of our country, those who have lost someone very close to their heart will also feel those pains more significantly on this day. For me, this day used to be a day of family gatherings and some remembering, but not an understanding of the loss of loved ones. Now there is understanding…a deep and painful understanding. It is easier to appreciate the sacrifice when you understand the loss.
So, now as I remember our fallen heroes on Memorial Day, I have a greater appreciation for not only the service they rendered, but for their families-the sacrifices that the mothers and children made. I am so grateful for the men and women who lost their lives fighting to protect us and our freedoms. And I am grateful for their families.
I am also grateful for a husband who was a valiant warrior. He battled cancer. His mortal body lost, but his spirit won. He did not let the cancer eat away at his soul like it was doing to his body. He was always valiant, courageous and remained strong. He was and is my greatest hero.
The painful, abiding sorrow that accompanies the death of a loved one is universal. Whether your loved one died while serving in our country’s armed forces, in a car accident, or some other way the end result is the same. They are no longer here with you. And you miss them more than words can say.
I think about and remember my beloved husband everyday. I remember his goodness and kindness, his sense of humor and laughter, his wisdom and love, and his never-ending support. Our children remember the singing, the laughter, the love, the stories, the humor, and the endless unconditional love from their daddy.
This is my third Memorial Day without my mom and husband. The pain is still there, but not as deep. I miss them both, but fortunately the tears are less. We now have moments of happy and moments of remembering without the sadness. There are good days and there are bad days. And there are in-between days.
I have a choice today. I can sit and wallow or I can be grateful. Grateful for the men and women who sacrificed their lives so I can enjoy my many freedoms. Grateful for the privilege and honor of being married to an amazing man…I had 14 years of amazing…some do not even get one day of what I experienced. Grateful I know that he still lives and one day we will be reunited.