Over the last few years I have had people ask me about Memorial Day. Some are hesitant, not wanting to offend and others ask knowing it is a big question for me.
So what is Memorial Day to me? It is hard. It is one of the hardest days of the year for me. There are a few days scattered throughout the 12 months that bring sadness and melancholy. Memorial Day I feel is more “in my face” than those days though because it is a national holiday. It is everywhere; social media, in the stores, on the radio, etc. I can’t “run” from it. The other hard days I feel like I can hide away but not Memorial Day. I sometimes also feel that people have a certain expectation of me. That I need to be more flamboyant or outward about my pain or hurt on Memorial Day. Others I feel would rather I keep it to a minimum. Either way I chafe at this. Each year is different. I’m in a different place in my life and the circumstances are always varying.
I personally do not feel that I need to share all my feelings on Facebook or my blog. If I want to, great. If I don’t share it doesn’t mean I have stopped feeling. It means I want some private time. I want to stay out of the public eye. One thing I learned when Josh passed was that everyone grieves and heals differently. There is not a right or wrong way to grieve. It is EXTREMELY personal. You cannot judge how one deals with loss. Or trauma. And you cannot judge how they heal. They themselves do not know what to expect. I feel that this carries through for the rest of one’s life. I am still healing. Michael is still healing. It will take our lives to figure this all out. And then we may not get it figured out. I tell people that the hole (pain) in my heart from losing Josh has a scab over it. The scab has helped to ease the stabbing pain over the years but it can be picked at. And it can be ripped completely off. The loss is still there. The pain is still there but the scab helps to dull it. This can apply to any pain or trauma in one’s life I feel.
Now back to Memorial Day. It is a day to honor the fallen. We have Veteran’s Day and Armed Forces Day to acknowledge, honor and say thank you to those who have served and those who are serving. Memorial Day is for those who gave all.
There are some who feel that you should not “celebrate” Memorial Day. That you should not say, “Happy Memorial Day.” Here is my take. From a widow’s standpoint. I am relieved when people recognize Memorial Day for what it truly is. It isn’t necessarily a happy day for me but I know that when people say that to me they may not know what else to say. They are recognizing the day and I take it for what it is meant. I don’t get offended. It is hard for those who haven’t experienced it to truly know so don’t be hard on them. As for having bbq’s and hanging out at the beach, do it. Go out with your family and friends and spend time with them. Cherish that time. Take silly selfies and eat too many hot dogs. I plead with you though to remember the true meaning of the holiday. Observe the national moment of remembrance at 3pm local time. Take a moment to teach your kids about the truly honorable and ultimate sacrifices that have been made for them and their country. Men and women voluntarily gave up their lives for a cause bigger than any of us. They BELIEVED in that cause. I asked Josh one time why he fought. Why he did it. His answer? So that his daughter and America’s children could have the same opportunities and freedoms that he had. That is why they fight. It is selfless. It is love.
Before Josh deployed we had conversations about what could happen. Injuries, loss of friends, PTSD, and loss of his own life. At the time it was horrifying to me. Now I am glad that we waded through it because it has given me the strength that I have needed. He told me to laugh. Not to cry. He told me he wanted people to party. I have known service members. And I think that they would feel the same way. They are fighting for our right. For our right to life. For our right to honor them. So if you go out on Memorial Day and have fun don’t feel guilty. Don’t let others get you down for having a good time. I believe that those who gave their lives would not be offended. Those who are left behind though would ask that you not forget their sacrifice. That is all I ask. PLEASE take time on Memorial Day and remember them. Honor them. Respect their ultimate sacrifice. They did it for you.