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Remembering Why We have Memorial Day

A little research helps remember what it is we are suppose to be remembering on Memorial Day, which was originally called Decoration Day and was a day of remembrance for those who died in the Civil War (I didn’t know that). General John Logan proclaimed the first Memorial Day which was observed May 30, 1868. Flowers were placed on the graves of Union and Confederate soldiers at Arlington National Cemetery. The first state to officially recognize the holiday was New York in 1873, followed by other northern states later.

Get this, the southern states refused to acknowledge Memorial Day until after World War I, when the intent for the holiday changed from honoring those who died fighting in the Civil War to honoring Americans who died fighting in any war. Sounds fair.

It wasn’t until 1971, until Congress made Memorial Day a federal holiday.

Many Americans observe Memorial Day by visiting cemeteries or joining in on parades. My husband and I attended a service years ago, in which our foster child at the time participated as a Young Marine. The Kennewick Young Marines poignantly commemorated the people who sacrifice their lives for future freedom.

On other Memorial Day’s, I have either worked or played. However, at some point during the year, I can’t help but sit back and remember the intentional or unintentional death of people who have died for advancement of freedom, peace, justice, or spiritual growth.

The anomaly of dying for life can soften the blow of death but it also can confuse the mind, which in turn may miss the point of Memorial Day. It is much more effective to remember thankfully the purpose of the death, rather than reverence the dead. Commemorating unselfishness leads to living out what was fought for, whereas recalling the dead leads to, well, the living dead.

From 21st Century Science and Health:

“The true sense is spiritually lost, if the sacrament is confined to the use of bread and wine. The disciples had eaten, yet Jesus prayed and gave them bread. This would have been ridiculous in a literal sense; but in its spiritual signification, it was natural and beautiful. Jesus prayed; he retreated from the mortal human perspectives and refreshed his heart with brighter, spiritual views…If everyone who ate bread and drank of Jesus’ cup really commemorated his sufferings, they would have revolutionized the world.”


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