Monday, May 25, 2009

Memorial Day...In Memory and Deed



In the United States, Memorial Day is a federal holiday, formerly known as "Decoration Day"....a day of remembrance for those who have died in our nation's service. We set out flags and flowers, we visit cemeteries, and we remember all of those who served our country.

The first memorial day was observed in 1865 by liberated slaves at a race track in Charleston, South Carolina. The site was a former Confederate prison camp as well as a mass grave for Union soldiers who had died while captive. A parade with thousands of freed blacks and Union soldiers was followed by patriotic singing and a picnic.

Due to lingering hostility after the Civil War, many southern states did not recognize Memorial Day until after World War I although the name Memorial Day" was first used in 1882.Given its origins in the American Civil War, Memorial Day is not a holiday outside the United States. Countries of the Commonwealth, as well as France and Belgium, honor members of the military who died in war on or around Remembrance Day(November 11.) The United States uses that date as Veterans Day (formerly Armistice Day) and honors all veterans, living and dead.

Memorial Day is currently a national holiday celebrated in almost every State on the last Monday in May.

Today, many Americans use Memorial Day weekend to also honor family members who have passed away. Church services on the Sunday prior to Memorial Day may include a reading of the names of members who have died during the previous 12 months. The southeastern United States continues to celebrate Decoration Day as a day to decorate the graves of all family members, and it is not reserved for those who served in the military and this is usually celebrated the week before the official Memorial Day Weekend.

*** This Year ***
This year, my husband and his brother continued their yearly tradition of bringing my 93 year old mother-in-law to visit the cemeteries where her veteran son is laid to rest, having died of cancer 23 years ago at the age of 53, as well as the others she has loved in this lifetime.They visited cemeteries in three cities...Stayton, Albany and a small pioneer cemetery, named after my husband's family, near Scio. All of this, in spite of the fact that my MIL is both house and wheelchair bound. We all cut flowers and flowering branches for her to place on the graves, a lifelong tradition in our family.

*** In Memory ***
This year, I honor my Uncle Elmer, a veteran from WW II, who died three weeks ago. My uncle had a photographic memory and a genius level IQ, but ended up being diagnosed with dementia about three years ago. He spent the past three years of his life in a series of 'Memory Care' nursing homes. Now, his memories.... and our memories of him..... must live on through us, since he had no children of his own. I am grateful I was able to make many photo albums for him these past years and a quilt that he was able to enjoy before his passing. I am even more grateful for the countless number of phone calls we shared, a few precious last visits, and a bond that will last past time.

*** Always ***
Whether we celebrate Memorial Day, Decoration Day, or just a day of remembrance....I simply remember the loss of all who have died in service to our country and thank them .....for all of their places in history, and for all of their places in our own lives.

9 comments:

  1. What a very lovely, meaningful post. Thank you.

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  2. Excellent post! I, too, honor Memorial Day. Both of my parents as well as my husband's father are buried at Arlington National Cemetery. Some of my family members visited the cemetery on Memorial Day to pay tribute to them as well as all the men/women who've sacrificed for our country.

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  3. Good Morning Michele, lovely post and in the true spirit of the day. I too have uncles that served and now long gone to their Maker. I didn't trek to the many cemetaries they lie in this time. In my heart Memorial Day(or Decoration Day as we called it) will always be May 30th, not th newer imposed last Monday in May. Fifty years ago I married on May 30th and yes, it was Memorial Day, but also the last Saturday in May on the church calendar. Thanks for a great informative post. Big hugs, Finn

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  4. How very interesting! I always know where to go to get the background info for every event! Lovely post!

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  5. What a wonderful post. On Memorial Day I remember my Uncle Jerry, who didn't come home from WWII. I named my son after him.

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  6. I am so grateful for those who have served and for those who are serving. My father served in the Army Air Corps (Air Force), one uncle in the army, and one in the navy. My son-in-law is in the air force. Thanks for a touching reminder of why we need to honor those who serve.

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  7. very special, here to a moment of silence. thanks for sharing!

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  8. This was so interesting! Thanks for sharing this. I never knew some of this at all!

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  9. Beautiful post, thank you so much!

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Michele Bilyeu blogs "With Heart and Hands" as she journeys between Douglas, Alaska and Salem, Oregon.