Today is Memorial Day in America, a Federal holiday which is celebrated on the last Monday of each May to honor the men and women who died while serving in the various branches of the armed services; Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard.
When and where I grew up, this day was always referred to as ‘Decoration Day’, a phrase which came into fashion in the American South.
On this day, all the ladies of the towns would make it a point to attend at the local cemetery to ‘decorate’ the graves of The Fallen in The War Between the States (1861-1865) or the Civil War.
I distinctly recall my grandmother’s and mother’s carefully ensuring that all the long, white boxes of flowers, oftentimes the reddest of red geraniums, were placed just-so at the foot of the granite monuments of our family members which they and I had just scrubbed and buffed to a shining clean.
Those in the North later came to adopt this day for the same purposes and call this event by the name now in more widespread use.
It all then expanded from the veteran’s graves of that bloodiest of conflicts to a wider group of men and, nowadays, of course, ladies who have made the Ultimate Sacrifice for their families, neighbors and Nation.
Tradition dictates that on this one day of the year patriots fly the flag of the United States at half-mast from dawn until noon.
Many people visit cemeteries and memorials, particularly to honor those who have died in military service. Many volunteers place an American flag on each grave in national cemeteries.
In Mississippi, the day coincides with the celebration of the birthday of the late President of the Confederate States of America, Jefferson Davis.
Indeed, it used to be the case that one only began to wear white after Memorial Day, verifying the coming of summertime. Now, of course, people wear whatever the heck they please whenever.
For all too many, Memorial Day has become far less the occasion of remembrance. Many people choose to hold picnics, sports events and family gatherings on this weekend, blithely either ignorant of the reason for the holiday or not giving a fig one way or the other.
For me, however, I always take stock not only of those men I knew in my unit, but also all those who served, those who answered the national call to arms and paid the Ultimate Sacrifice.
Being laid in the ground, oftentimes forgotten or vaguely remembered only once a year but lying there awaiting Eternity’s end has never appealed.
Nonetheless, Life’s dictates are supreme. We are but supplicants, if we’re lucky enough for that.
So, kindly take just a wee moment. Reflect on those who paid with their souls, lives and are due eternal honor as they lie in some ground, howsoever far from what used to be called home.
[The moment every father fears, and when
a wee boy just can’t be a man… not yet.]
On the notion that one finds comfort howsoever best one can, may I offer a moment to be reassured, restored and uplifted by the talents of the young, genius composer, Ola Gjello, and his ‘The Ground’, a reworking of the Latin. “Pleni sunt caeli et terra gloria tua”.
This is the language which is one of the most telling, moving parts of the Mass where it is established that
Heaven and earth are full of thy glory:
Hosanna, in the highest.
Blessed is he that commeth in the name of the Lord:
Glory to thee, O Lord in the highest.
(If this fails to play, my apologies; please click this link: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6lGbeYp1Az8)
After what may have seemed Eternal Strife, in combat and long past then, may they now all Rest in Truly Eternal Peace.
Maestro Ola Gjello, Web: http://http://olagjeilo.com Twitter: @olagjeilo
Maestro Charles Bruffy, leader of both The Phoenix Chorale http://www.phoenixchorale.org/ Twitter: @phoenixchorale and the Kansas City Chorale, http://www.kcchorale.org/ Twitter: @KCChorale and the blissful perfection of these Voices of Pure Peace.