Memorial Day, in my eyes, has always been about honoring those that died while protecting and serving our country. I always thought of Memorial Day as a day of remembrance, honoring only those that gave their lives in service. In fact, I’ve made fun of people not differentiating correctly between Memorial Day and Veterans Day. My mindset always told me that Memorial Day was those that passed in the service and Veterans Day was to pay homage to all of the veterans that have served this country.
However, my fiancee recently brought up a really good point. While the technical definition set by the United States government is that Memorial Day is the last Monday in May and celebrated as an honor to all of the men and women that lost their lives in the service of the United States military, it can mean so much more.
Christmas is a prime example. Christmas is, at its core, a Christian holiday served to celebrate the birth of Jesus Christ. In my opinion, nobody really celebrates Christmas as only a Christian holiday to celebrate the birth of Jesus. Instead, it has become a catalyst for family togetherness, gift exchanges, amazing meals, and wintry weather. Nothing says that Christmas has to be about Jesus Christ only, so in the eyes of each individual person, why must Memorial Day be only about those that gave their lives in the service?
Don’t get me wrong, though. I’m not trying to desecrate the holiday, take away from the lives of those amazingly brave men and women that have died serving our country, or say one line of thinking is greater than another. Instead, Memorial Day is so much more than its official definition. Memorial Day can be used as a celebration of all of those we’ve lost.
My fiancee’s family goes to the local cemetery and visits the graves of passed family members on Memorial Day. Today, we visited the graves of my fiancee’s grandmother, grandfather, and uncle. Her grandfather did serve in the military, but he did not die in service. He passed many years later. By my original definition, we should truly only honor him on Veterans Day since he did not die while in service to the country.
All of that aside, he still served his country. He may not have died in service, but he served with pride. Why should we not honor him on this day? As for her grandmother and uncle, neither of them served, yet we still celebrated and honored them.
I can honestly admit when I’m wrong, and in this case, I feel like I was wrong to judge those that spent Memorial Day celebrating every single person that passed or celebrated the living veterans instead of waiting until Veterans Day. While I understand the core concept of Memorial Day shouldn’t be tainted, there is nothing wrong with using the federal holiday as a day of remembrance to all those that have passed.
This brings me to my grandfather. A little more than a year ago, I struggled through true grief for the first time. Granted, I had relationships that ended in heartbreak and despair, a few lost pets, and even lost family members that weren’t extremely close to me. My first true grief came in the form of losing my grandfather while I lived 500+ miles away from him. I hadn’t seen him in many months, and I never truly got to say goodbye to him.
Instead of letting tears dominate me while reminiscing about my grandfather, I will instead use Memorial Day to celebrate the man that enraptured my heart for so many years. He served in the military, but he didn’t die in service. Jerry Wooley suffered a heart attack and never recovered. But, he still served, he has passed onto the afterlife, and Memorial Day is a great day to memorialize him. Yes, his birthday and death day can also be celebrated, but today is a day recognized by the entire nation as a day of remembrance.
My grandfather was one of two of the biggest heroes in my life. I am more proud than I can even begin to describe of his lifetime achievements. His service in the military is exemplary enough given the prominence that comes with such a service. He raised three boys, was a dutiful husband, an incredible grandfather, and one of the best mentors I’ve ever had. I’m not sure what kind of man I would be if it wasn’t for my grandfather.
So on this day of memorial, I celebrate and honor my deceased grandfather.
Others have come and gone in my life as well. My great grandmother on both my grandfather and grandmother’s side have passed during my lifetime.
Edna Moppin and Ruth Wooley. I celebrate and honor both of them today.
My childhood friend’s mother passed a few years ago. She was an amazing woman with whom I spent many hours of my life while growing up.
Sue Snider. I celebrate and honor her today.
When I was younger, a baseball teammate and cousin to my childhood friend died from a brain tumor. I don’t remember much about him, but I remember that I was lost and confused when he died, still too young to truly grasp the concept of that kind of death.
Cody Montgomery. I celebrate and honor him today.
Memorial Day is so much more than just honoring our fallen veterans. While I take a moment of silence in their honor, I will take a separate one for the deceased in my life.
Today, I celebrate and honor all of you.