In Memorium

One of the older instructions we have toward memory and honor is told by the honoree. “This do,” said a very influential man, “in remembrance of me.”

The act he was speaking of was simple, human, and intimate: sharing food between friends.

Every Memorial Day weekend, we’re reminded that it’s about more than white sales and barbecues and an extra day with your family and friends. This is a bias that I share. Out at Tahoma National Cemetery lie rank upon rank of my peers, leaders, forebears, and role models. Each year I visit them, less for their benefit than for my own.

I wonder, though, if taking a piece of that time to spend with the living is not, in some way, the highestLast Supper honor we can do the dead. Those memories of men and women, lying under simple white stones, lived some non-trivial portion of their spans in dedicated service to Life, Liberty and the Pursuit of Happiness. This is a day to honor them, perhaps not only with somber grief and recognition of their sacrifices but by taking joy in the life paths they helped to clear for us.

Yesterday, I made my visits, stopping for reflection at perhaps a hundred stones, moving slowly among the families seeking their connections, contact with touchstones of an honored past. Tomorrow, I’ll return to worrying about the future of this nation, my family, and this household.

Iraq War Memorial hat bootsToday, we’ll hang a mirror in the guest bath that we built from scrap wood to be layered in surplus paint. Once it’s up, we’ll start building shelves to go over curtains stitched up for the guest room. This evening,
we’ll share a halal barbecue with the neighbors we met through our daughter, who’s friends with their daughter — and that’s how community extends across households, religions, and state lines. We’ll break that bread and roast that meat with attention and memory, the way you do when you’re learning about some people and remembering others. A peaceful day, set aside from the swirling schedule, is gratefully received for our conscious, intentional use. This is the gift we treasure from those whom we’ll always respect.

These humble things, these sacraments of the mundane: these we do in remembrance of those to whom godspeed is no longer a limit, but the starting gun.

 

Comments

  1. Richard Miller says:

    Thank you so MUCH!

    R

  2. Sherri A says:

    Agreed. A moving tribute indeed.

  3. GlennS says:

    1) Interesting rendition of the Last Supper… and far more *accurate*, I think, than the Da Vinci or Tintoretto… doubly so that it’s LDS.

    2) As for that last graf, Amen, Aho, `amama, so mote that shit. Perhaps if we lived more *mindfully*, and didn’t take so many things for granted, the chasm between sacred and mundane would not be so wide, nor so difficult to cross. And, maybe, just maybe, we as a people would be less willing to allow our corporate overlords to do things that result in more of those headstones.

  4. Sean Brendan-Brown says:

    Hey, buddy!
    Hope you’re still healing, Jack.
    This essay hit me hard because you know vets like me & you were in it 100% but our government as well as our people don’t seem to give another fuck what happens to us beyond their safety-mom Republican daddy adherence to a failed Christian Oligarchy where young angry working class men like me and Jack go kill their fucking boogeymen, then these assholes get their temporary peace and forget all about us. Well, FUCK YOU! Hillary Clinton is soon going to be the new POTUS, and all of you are going to have to GROW THE FUCK UP as men! Stick that in your closet homo pipes and smoke it, motherfuckers!
    Sincerely’
    Sean Brendan-Brown, USMC Ret.

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