20200521 102339

Remembering Virtually

I know that many people share a birthday with an important holiday celebration. We have a spiritual care counselor at Big Bend Hospice whose birthday falls on July 4. My husband’s birthday falls on January 2, in the shadow of New Year’s Day. My own birthday falls near Memorial Day and, of the holidays to share, it seems like a particularly meaningful one.

Like many civilians, I have not always appreciated the distinction between Veterans Day and Memorial Day. Although having a father who served in the Navy, uncles in the Marines, a husband in the Air Force, and a son and nephew in the Army, my awareness of things military has been most enhanced by my work at Big Bend Hospice in the care of the Veterans with whom we are privileged to work. What I have learned is that Veterans Day in November honors all of the men and women who have served the country in war or peace, dead or alive, but is largely focused on those who are living. Memorial Day in May is a day to remember those persons who gave their lives for our country in battle or from wounds suffered in battle.

The activities associated with this day of remembrance traditionally include decorating the graves of those who gave the ultimate sacrifice. First called Decoration Day, as many as twenty-five places in our country claim the origin of the day that has come to be known as Memorial Day. Dating back to the Civil War, 5,000 participants decorated graves of more than 20,000 former Union and Confederate soldiers on May 30, 1868, at the Arlington National Cemetery. To this day, the Arlington National Cemetery observes Memorial Day with the placing of a small American flag on each grave.

Because of the necessary precautions related to the COVID-19 pandemic, Memorial Day 2020 will not be celebrated as it has been in the past. Arlington Cemetery is closed to the public and only family pass holders, wearing masks and retaining physical distancing, will be permitted to visit the grave of their loved ones. The American Veterans Center cancelled the 2020 National Memorial Day Parade in Washington, DC, and will rather broadcast on stations nationwide a pre-recorded television special titled, “The National Memorial Day Parade: America Stands Tall.” Communities across the nation are coming up with creative ways to remember those who gave the ultimate sacrifice, while wisely adhering to counsel from the CDC to limit public gatherings to ten or fewer.

In our community, Big Bend Hospice is offering a Service of Remembrance filmed in our Veterans Memorial Garden. This sensitive service can be viewed on or after Memorial Day, May 25, 2020, by visiting www.bigbendhospice.org or by following Big Bend Hospice on Facebook at https://www.facebook.com/bigbendhospicefan. You might consider a virtual gathering with your family to share the viewing so that it becomes more personal to the intimate circle of the one(s) being remembered.

During this pandemic many of us have had more time to reflect on the things that matter most to us. One of those things is to truly appreciate the freedoms we enjoy. On Memorial Day we express gratitude to those men and women who gave the ultimate sacrifice for the cause of freedom. Whether we do this by participating in the brief but meaningful virtual Memorial Day Service from Big Bend Hospice or by observing a moment of silence at 3:00 PM local time, or by some other means, it seems particularly important in these troubled and uncertain times to consider the significance of the lives of those who died in the pursuit of freedom and peace.

And because grief in its many forms is so prevalent among us now, may we all find ways to support those who are mourning the loss of someone to or during this pandemic. With familiar grief rituals no longer permissible, may we be especially intentional about expressing our love for and sharing stories about those who have died with the ones most impacted. While we cannot be together, it is becoming more and more clear, we are all in this together and our care for each other matters greatly. During this holiday weekend, may we all take the time to care for those around us in grateful memory of those who died for freedom and those who have died during this unprecedented time of COVID-19.