Memorial Day: What Are We Remembering and Why?

Memorial Day in the U.S. represents a variety of things to different people:

  • A day off of work
  • The beginning of summer
  • Going to the lake
  • Having a barbeque with friends and family
  • The Indianapolis 500
  • Visiting family gravesites
  • Veterans parades and celebrations
  • Watching war movies

For me, especially when getting together with children, teenagers & young adults, I start to wonder — what does Memorial Day mean to them? In some ways, maybe it doesn’t matter — “it is what it is” and it is their life. But, in other ways, I believe gathering together is important — for if we are not intentional in communicating what is meaningful to us, then what is ‘important’ ceases to be different from anything else.

I began to consider: how you discuss the meaning of the past and those who are no longer with us, without sounding like an old man carrying on about the ‘old days?’ Here is an idea: Kids like word games. Memorial sounds like ‘memory’ and ‘remembering’. So, possibly talk together about — what is a “memorial” and what are we trying to remember? (and why?)

Here are some questions to consider using as conversation starters:

  • What is the opposite of remembering?  [Forgetting? Ignoring?]
  • What happens when you forget something that happened or someone who was important (or who did something important?)
  • Do you think it is valuable to us to remember people who have gone before us? Why?
  • What impact may forgetting have on us?
  • If I wanted to remember someone or something that happened, what could I do to help me recall more about them?

What are we remembering?

  1. Family members that we knew who are no longer with us?
  2. Our distant relatives & forefathers we never knew?
  3. People close to us who have died and we miss?
  4. Military personnel who have died in fighting to protect our country’s freedom?

The answers are unique to each of us. In fact, maybe we need to ask ourselves — why don’t I take time to remember? Is it that important to me? And am I okay with that? When I die, do I hope someone remembers something about me? What would I like them to remember?

I’m thankful I have a family heritage of parents, grandparents, aunts and uncles who lived their lives in a way that served as a model for me. I plan to take some time this Memorial Day to intentionally remember them and how they contributed to my life.

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