Memorial Day Thoughts

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Are you afraid of death?
Well, I can’t say that I have
any great affection for it.
Look below you, my friend.
For 70 years,
I’ve watched the seasons change.
I’ve seen the vibrant life of summer,
the brilliant death of fall…
the silent grave of winter.
And then, I’ve seen
the resurrection of spring
the glorious birth of new life.
And my father and my father’s father
have seen it before me.
Nothing ever dies, my friend.

Prince of Foxes Screenplay, 1949

Prior to my son Larry passing away three years ago I had never spent much time in cemeteries.  That of course has changed.  Over the past three years I have been a weekly visitor, except when the snow is too thick to get in (one time I got stuck at the gate in the snow making the attempt) to Mount Olivet Cemetery here in Dwight.  I have always been struck by the peace there as I talk to my son at his grave site and pray.  A train runs along a side of the cemetery, something Larry would have enjoyed, and no doubt his spirit does, as he was fascinated by trains during life.  Each season has a special grandeur at the cemetery:  spring with its new life, lush summer, brilliant fall, and silent winter.  However, without a doubt, the most beautiful time is Memorial Day where the graves of veterans in the cemetery are decorated with flags.

Going to the graves we see veterans who lived to old age and veterans who died young in war.  Graves dating from the Civil War and graves dating from recent conflicts.  Graves where the sorrow of the loss is dimmed with the passage of time and graves where the sorrow is a fresh wound.  All the graves have in common is a small American flag marking them on this day, a sign of respect and love for their service.

Remembering our dead is a tribute to the human capacities for memory and love.  It is all too easy to forget our dead in the hurly-burly of life, but it is essential that we do not do so.  God loves each man as if there was no other.  Each life is worthy of remembrance, for good or for ill.  We are not Mayflies that live brief lives and perish.  What we are echoes both in time and in eternity and no man’s life or death should be ignored.

In a cemetery we see the panoply of life spread out before us:  infants who died at birth to people who died beyond the century mark.  Beloved wives, husbands, brothers, sisters, uncles, aunts, sons and daughters.  Graves of the obscure and the famous.  Graves that are frequently visited and graves where the loved ones of the departed have long since departed themselves.  All alike waiting for the Final Day when their bodies will rejoin their souls when Christ comes to judge all.

My bride and I have plots on each side of our son, we making the decision the week of his death that as we held his hands as a small boy in life, we will do so in death.  I think Mount Olivet will be a pleasant place for our bodies to await the coming of Christ.  It is close to where our children attended school and close to Lion’s Lake where our family had many enjoyable outings.  Memories of good times survive the death of a loved one as does our love.  A consoling thought for Memorial Day in this year of grace 2016.

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  1. Here are the lyrics of a song I wrote a few years back regarding the war fallen:

    At the dawn of their lives, they heard the call. Stepped right up and gave it their all.

    Brothers in arms who went into harm’s way knowing full well the price they might pay. They gave their tomorrows so we could be free today.

    This is a story that needs to be told, of these boys who will never grow old.

    But like a hero’s song left unsung, these same boys will be forever young.

    War is a time that’ll try a man’s soul. To face his own death and not lose control.

    No greater love can any man send than when he gives his life for a friend. The kind of love upon which lives depend.

    There is a time when good men go to war, when there are things they need to fight for.

    Still some say that might doesn’t make right, but there are times we’ve to fight, fight with all of our might to do what’s right.

    War is a thing one should never wish for. But you know there are things that are much worse than war. Like living’ in tyranny that robs a man of his dignity and denies his humanity.

  2. “My bride and I have plots on each side of our son, we making the decision the week of his death that as we held his hands as a small boy in life, we will do so in death.”
    That made me choke up.

  3. I’m a regular at Queen of Heaven in Hillside, IL. The mausoleum contains the remains of over 30,000 individuals-the largest in the US I am told. I will walk through there praying for the poor souls; I enjoy the company of the deceased better than the living. Outside several of my relatives are buried. If you are ever in suburban Chicago you need to check it out.

    Across the street Capone is buried at Mt. Carmel. Also many of the archbishops of Chicago are buried there. If you wait outside of their crypt on Sundays on the hour, custodians will unlock their crypt. The interior is covered with gold. The crypt was built in Italy, taken apart and the artisans came over to rebuild on site. It is beautiful

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