“For death is no more than a turning of us over from time to eternity.” – William Penn
More than 2,500 years ago, Greek citizens would decorate the graves of fallen heroes with flowers and garlands to honor their sacrifice and bravery. Today, we have a similar custom in America – Memorial Day.
During the Civil War, memorial days were set aside by both the United States and the Confederacy to honor the fallen dead. As the tradition spread, it became known as “Decoration Day,” and was primarily a time to remember those who had given their lives in service of their country.
In 1882, the alternative name, “Memorial Day,” caught on and a national holiday was declared by congress in 1968 under the Uniform Holidays Bill and set as the last Monday in May. The law took effect on the federal level in 1971 and moved Memorial Day, Veteran’s Day and President’s Day (then celebrated as George Washington’s birthday) from their traditionally celebrated dates to Mondays to create convenient three-day weekends.
Typically the start of the vacation season, Memorial Day generates some of the heaviest annual traffic on America’s roadways. The holiday is one of the most popular times for family gatherings, cookouts and sporting events and has become a mile marker for kids anticipating the final days of the school year before summer break.
The extended holiday weekend is also recognized as the start of the summer blockbuster movie season. Along with new movies like Prince of Persia: The Sands of Time and Killers, this year’s films are mired in remakes including Jackie Chan’s revamp of The Karate Kid and a big screen version of the 80’s TV show, The A-Team. And let’s not forget the sequels!
Toy Story 3 and Shrek Forever After top the animated continuations in the summer of 2010 along with Sex and the City 2 and yet another jaunt into the world of teen vampire angst with The Twilight Saga: Eclipse. Movies are certainly not the only Memorial Day activity.
But while we’re munching popcorn and burning hot dogs on the grill, we should try to remember that Memorial Day is more than picnics and parades. While you enjoy time with family and friends, take a moment during the weekend to remember someone who had a lifelong effect on your life, whether they are still with us or not.
Who changed your life in positive ways that you can’t even calculate? Was it a teacher, aunt, uncle, friend or classmate? Think about what kind of person you would have become and the life you would have led without their influence.
Would you have the job you have? Would you have taken the same courses in school? Would you be the person you are now? Life moves by pretty fast and we often forget that we couldn’t have made it alone.
There is an old saying that people come into our lives for a reason, a season, or a lifetime. It means that some people may have a temporary influence on our path down life’s winding road, while others may stay with us longer, affecting more than a few key decisions. Our path in life is guided by the decisions we make. Depending on your beliefs, there may be a supernatural influence at work.
Either way, we still make the decisions to turn left or right, to run or walk or to do nothing at all. Regardless of whether you believe these things are random or predestined, there are always other people involved in those events and some of them are more significant than others.
If that person (or people – there may be more than one) in your life is still around don’t waste a moment sharing your experiences with them. Pick up the phone or go visit them and tell them what they did for you.
Let them know how much they influenced your world and how grateful you are that they were in your life. But, whatever you do, don’t wait until they are a Memorial Day memory. Have a safe and happy Memorial Day weekend.
Columnist Gery L. Deer is an independent journalist and copywriter from Jamestown, Ohio. More at www.gerydeer.com